An exhibition in Abu Dhabi that portrays Emirati visions of the UAE

Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

In a selection of digitally altered satellite images of Abu Dhabi, Zeinab Al Hashemi imagines the endless possibilities that the continuous development of the city might bring.

"You see something that actually exists but then you see the continuation of it in a kaleidoscopic effect of not what is, but what could be," she says of the works, titled Coast Collision.

By splicing the images and repeating or reflecting them to build pieces of art that resemble a Rorschach test or something more abstract, she has created an artistic view that offers the chance for contemplation.

This thoughtful approach is appropriate, given that her art is one of 20 works by Emirati artists commissioned for Portrait of a Nation, an exhibition at Emirates Palce in celebration of the 20th anniversary of Abu Dhabi Music and Art Foundation.

The participating artists were asked to reflect upon their homeland and its influence on their personal practice. Their work will be displayed in a monumental exhibition in Emirates Palace that opens next week as part of the annual Abu Dhabi Festival.

“We felt it was important to reflect the 20th anniversary of Admaf through the creativity of this nation,” says Hoda Al Khamis Kanoo, the founder and artistic director of Admaf and the festival.

“[The artists] were selected based on a period of extensive research and in-depth conversations that took place over the past 12 months. It’s been an incredible journey of learning and discovery.”

Other commissions include interesting sculptures such as Dhad, by Azza Al Qubaisi – a three-dimensional steel structure of Arabic letter.

“Arabic is called language of the dhad,” she says. “Using the Arabic language in my design and fine-art practice is very important, primarily as a means to reflect my identity.”

Layla Juma, who investigates form and spatial arrangements, created a stainless steel piece titled Leaf.

"I want Leaf to be a sort of homage to the natural form," she says. "The strength and solidity is intended to be reflective of the masterful engineering of the leaf."

There are personal contributions from Latifa Bint Maktoum, whose atmospheric photography is presented in Family – an image of herself, her husband and son standing in the house of her grandfather, and Salama Nasib, who took inspiration from old photographs of her mother. In Her Patterns, she uses designs from her mother's old clothes in linocut prints on laser-cut cotton for a four metre-high installation.

Khalid Shafar, the UAE’s most prominent designer, has created a seating area, inspired by the traditional arish shelters made of palm fronds, that was showcased previously at Dubai Design Week in d3.

Khalid Mezaina’s pencil and pen drawings on paper of UAE coffee shops immortalise what he calls “a ubiquitous part of our urban landscape”.

In addition to the 20 commissions, Admaf will also display 30 works on loan from other leading Emirati artists. Together, they form what could well be the most comprehensive exhibition of Emirati contemporary art the country has ever seen.

Artists who have provided works include Ebtisam Abdulaziz, whose systematic art is always excellently conceptualised and presented, and Reem Al Ghaith, whose photography captures the spirit of the UAE.

Lesser-known artists are also included, which is extremely important for viewers who are already familiar with the UAE’s contemporary art scene and are looking for new discoveries and there is also a selection of video interviews made with some of the artists which will also shed light on the art in the best way possible – hearing the artist themselves explain it.

The exhibition and all the material to accompany it is a credit to Admaf and is a wonderful way to celebrate their 20-year milestone.

“Admaf was founded in 1996, the same year that Abu Dhabi was officially named the capital of the UAE,” says Kanoo. “The UAE has seen exponential growth in population, innovation and the development of the creative and cultural industries. In that time, we have seen a wealth of artistic and cultural initiatives taking root; the result of an ever-deepening dialogue regarding the role of arts in society. Visual arts practice has flourished in response to this. Portrait of a Nation seeks to capture the UAE’s love of its heritage, ensuring that creativity remains an essential part of the nation’s ongoing progress.”

Portrait of a Nation opens on Sunday and runs until May 10 in the Emirates Palace Gallery.