When Matthew Ryder received a sunburst Gibson Les Paul guitar to customise with his own art, he almost didn’t want to start. The solid-body guitar, which was designed in the 1950s, is, after all, considered by aficionados to be the most desirable electric guitar ever created.
Vision of sound
He is one of 18 UAE-based artists who were selected to put their own unique artistic stamp on Gibson guitars for a pop-up exhibition called Vision of Sound – which opened on Saturday as a joint celebration of the company's 120th anniversary and yesterday's International Day of Peace. And it's all for a good cause: the guitars will be auctioned in October with the proceeds going to charity.
“I had researched how to remove the paint and the best way was to melt it off with a heat gun,” says Ryder, “but when it came to it, I was too afraid of damaging it, so I just sanded it down and primed and painted it as I would a canvas.”
Ryder’s design, titled Lost Doves, was inspired by the Day of Peace theme. He settled on a black background with a lion’s head in full roar on the front and a large dove on the back. The dove was repeated on the front, smaller and flying out of the lion’s mouth.
Going on show
Vision of Sound was unveiled on Saturday at the Hard Rock Cafe Dubai, before moving to The Dubai Mall yesterday, where it will be on show until October 5.
There was also a two-day special showing on Saturday and Sunday of Gibson Through the Lens, a travelling exhibition that includes 60 fine-art prints from international music photographers, such as Baron Wolman, Mick Rock, Ross Halfin and the late Jim Marshall. They include classic images of Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Bob Marley, Keith Richards and many more guitarists who have played Gibson guitars.
Henry Juszkiewicz, the chairman and chief executive of Gibson Brands, says: “We are happy to join our friends in the Middle East to increase our involvement in the region. While Gibson has become a household name for musicians and music lovers alike, we want to bring a never-before-seen perspective of the brand to Dubai, adding a new and exciting visual artistic layer to the musical one everyone loves so much.”
Curating the project
Mo Abedin, an Emirati urban artist and the curator of the guitar exhibition, says that there are some amazing one-of-a-kind creations in the show. He selected the artists for their skill and style, without considering their nationality.
“I’m an Emirati, this is my city, this is my country, everything I have done so far has been community driven,” he says. “I am not biased and I don’t look at a country count when choosing artists. I go with pure raw passion and directed talent. It is very important to support these people as they are our future.”
Making the cut
Also featured in the show are Jalal Luqman, an Emirati mixed-media artist who can be credited with bringing digital art to the UAE; Liz Ramos-Prado, an illustrator and designer from Peru; Dina Butti, an Egyptian-Canadian artist; and Flordeliza Pesigan, a self-taught artist from the Philippines.
With 18 artists, the variety and influences of the designs are wide. The only thing uniting them is a distinctive 120th anniversary inlay at the 12th fret.
“This is a big thing for these artists,” says Abedin. “Gibson is an international brand and this will help get the artist’s name out there on an elevated platform.”
• The Gibson Art Guitars are on display in the Waterfall Atrium in The Dubai Mall until October 5