‘Made in Tashkeel’ exhibit showcases Dubai’s emerging talent

Vinyl records, reimagined National Geographic landscapes and hand-made jewellery were just some of the offerings at Tashkeel’s annual exhibition

Tashkeel, a contemporary and non-profit art hub in Dubai, opened its doors to visitors keen to explore its annual exhibition, showcasing artworks produced by some 20 artists linked to the organisation. The ‘Made in Tashkeel’ show has been held since Tashkeel started in 2008, documenting evolving art practices in the emirate.

On display is a wide range of artworks using various mediums, including drawing, painting, mixed media, hand-made jewellery, bespoke furniture, typography, vinyl record and digital and screen prints. The three-month exhibit features recent works of UAE-based artists who have created their work from experimentations, workshops and residencies facilitated by and held at Tashkeel. 

One of the artworks was Rand Abdul Jabbar’s wooden table and chair, inspired by the UAE dhow. Emirati artist and designer Latifa Saeed’s Thubbabah is a fly suspended mid air, using a hidden magnet, and made with the tradition of weaving palm fronds and the latest laser cutting technology.

Tamsin Wildy, studio manager at Tashkeel and one of the exhibiting artists, said more Emirati artists are combining traditional techniques with high-tech equipment to create their work.

Wildy showed two untitled works that recreated new scenes from old National Geographic hand-painted landscapes. In the two collages she had hand cut images from 1939 and 1959 editions of the magazine into thin strips and reordered them to create new, slightly distorted landscapes. The nostalgic and vintages images lend the artworks their otherworldly character.

Ruba Al Araji,
Ruba Al Araji, Embedding Memories

Having moved to Dubai from London in September, Wildly sees a lot of potential in the emirate’s art scene, describing it as “a blossoming bud that’s about to flower at any moment”.

“What’s really nice about Dubai is it’s not completely saturated. It’s really exciting to see what’s happening, especially in the local talent, which sometimes gets dismissed for more international names, but actually there’s some really interesting stuff,” Wildy said.

“In Tashkeel, there are many people working in a range of mediums, but also exploring new technologies. There are old school techniques from print based to painting to then working with 3D printers and laser cutters so there’s a nice vibe going on.”

Ruba Al Araji, a 25-year-old artist of Iraqi origin, depicted childhood moments in a graphite drawing titled ‘Embedding Memories’.

“It’s about me taking my old memories and putting them in one dreamy cinematic piece. The figures are very personal - my mother and me. I’ve tried to put all the memories from home in Baghdad and the fact that I can never go back there hurts. There’s water and the feel of a different life, different style of living. Now everything is fast, but this is homey and slow,” Al Araji said.

Coming to Tashkeel for six months has helped Al Araji become more productive. She creates mostly realistic illustrations, including for children’s books, and often using coloured pencils and paint.

What’s really nice about Dubai is it’s not completely saturated. It’s really exciting to see what’s happening, especially in the local talent

Tamsin Wildy, Studio manager, Tashkeel

Alkhahest, a mixed media artwork from Saudi artist Hadil Moufti, captures an imaginary landscape where a herd of cows roam against a somewhat apocalyptic background. Using a repetition of the same image, Moufti organised more than 100 cows on watercolour paper that has been painted with acrylics and charcoal. She draws inspiration comes from nature, memories, childhood, literature, music and other artists, as well as from living in different countries, including the UK.

“I try to tell a tale or story, but without an ending. I like the viewer to have their own interpretation. Alkhahest is from alchemy. There was a scientist who made up this word. It’s this matter that dissolves everything or turns everything to gold. It doesn’t actually exist and I found that wonderful,” she said.

Moufti’s other works show elephants, birds and other animals, often involving long weeks of cutting each image. After three years in Dubai, she considers the emirate a “center for Arab art” and place to connect with developments in the regional art scene.

Tashkeel’s exhibition runs from May 28 until August 20. The center was established by Lateefa bint Maktoum as a contemporary art organisation, offering studio facilities, artists’ residencies, international fellowships, a programme of exhibitions, events and workshops.