Emirati artist Ashwaq Abdulla's work is inspired by Abu Dhabi wildlife

Ashwaq's paintings went on sale at Saadiyat Rotana Resort and Villas on Monday, with all proceeds donated to the Beit Al Khair Society

We don’t perhaps associate Abu Dhabi with wildlife but a selection of paintings by Emirati artist Ashwaq Abdulla, which were on display for one day only this week at Saadiyat Rotana Resort and Villas, is a reminder of just how rich and varied the ecosystem is here.

Abdulla’s large, heavily textured canvases capture a world that is a long way from Abu Dhabi’s busy roads and shiny shopping malls. Taking her inspiration instead from trips to Saadiyat Island, Abdulla has created a series of stunning acrylic paintings depicting turtles, flamingos, Arabian deer and a traditional Emirati dhow bobbing quietly out at sea.

"I was amazed when I started this project," Abdulla told The National. "We have flamingos – can you imagine? I'd never seen them before. This project helped me to explore and to see what we have […] It opened my eyes to a different side of Abu Dhabi."

Abdulla, who studied interior design, has used a delicate palette – greys, light browns, pale pinks and blues – to maximise the impact of light and shadow, while the subjects of the paintings are nearly always placed centrally and dwarfed by the canvas around them, conveying a wonderful sense of space. At times, you want to step inside these paintings and breathe in the fresh air with these creatures.

The gentle colours are offset, however, by some bold brushwork and areas where great clots of paint have been applied to capture the boiling of a breaking wave or the gravelly feel of wet sand. In one lovely painting, a pair of ‘Falcon Beak’ turtles make their desperate journey to the ocean, leaving behind two coarse rutted tracks, like tyre marks. Here you can see where Abdulla has used her fingers to apply the paint.

Abdulla, a graduate from Higher Colleges of Technology, was commissioned by Saadiyat Rotana Resort and Villas in 2016 to produce this series of works to reflect the landscape of Saadiyat Island. Reproductions of her paintings, each of which she has worked on, now hang in all of the hotel’s 350 rooms.

“We are honoured to have worked with an artist of Ashwaq’s standing and to have her original works displayed among the confines of the property,” said Shaikha Al Nowais, Vice President – Owner Relationship Management of Rotana. “Nature is in the DNA of the resort. To me there is little difference between the environment around the resort and the resort itself – they are one.”

Abdulla’s original paintings, displayed in the Sama Lobby Lounge, were for sale on Monday, with all proceeds donated to the Beit Al Khair Society, which supports vulnerable people in the UAE.

Noura Al Kaabi, Minister of Culture and Knowledge, attended the event.