In the UAE, portraits of the country's leaders can be seen in offices and storefronts, on buildings and car windows, and as paintings, 3D sculptures and light works.
Recently, however, an architecture and design studio from London unveiled something else quite unique – an image of Sheikh Zayed, the Founding Father, made up of 29,000 reflective discs.
Spanning 15 metres, the large-scale installation is the work of Giles Miller Studio, which often explores the use of materials and light, as well as technology and handmade compositions through its projects.
The portrait, which is located in the DoubleTree by Hilton Dubai M Square Hotel & Residences, exemplifies this method, as the metallic discs are carefully fixed on to a backing at different angles in order to control how the light reflects on the surface.
“The angle variation creates tonal differences in the image, and we use that effect to control and illustrate the image in question,” explains Giles Miller, the studio’s founder.
Dubai company Two Art Consultants was behind the commission, as well as the hotel's notable art collection, which has been listed as one of the top nine for the Hilton brand around the world. "We wanted to create something artistically innovative and contextually expressive for the lobby," says co-founder and creative director Sophie Kaila.
"This artwork is a visual testament to a man who dedicated his life to improving his country and humanity.”
Who is Giles Miller?
Miller, who studied at London’s Royal College of Art, launched his eponymous studio in 2010, building it up after working on a commission for the Stella McCartney brand.
Over the years, the studio has experimented with material and scale, producing site-specific designs and sculptural pieces.
"Despite the evolution of the studio and our work, the concept of manipulating material to control reflection has been a constant in our methodology," Miller says. "And we still maintain the same creative approach across projects of hugely varying scales, from jewellery to murals, and from sculpture to architecture."
For the Sheikh Zayed work, Miller says his team studied the way the light would change within the space and how visitors would move around the work. Assembling it took a team of eight people three weeks to complete.
The focus of the piece is not simply how the discs have been assembled, but the dimensions of colour that reveal themselves depending on the viewer’s perspective.
“By using reflection as a medium, there is inherent variation in the artwork depending on the surrounding light levels, the position of the viewer relative to the piece, and even the time of day or night it is viewed,” Miller says.
Giles Miller Studio's Sheikh Zayed portrait is only one of many installations the company has completed in the region. Other projects include designs for Etihad Airways airport lounges in Abu Dhabi, Colab in Dubai Design District and Level Shoes at The Dubai Mall.