Abdul Rauf Khalfan with his artwork.
Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer
Emirati artist Abdul Rauf Khalfan began his tryst with art when was six when he asked his father for a drawing book. He got a notebook instead. Khalfan, instead of crying over the lemon he was given, made lemonade out of it. He drew a boat on the first page, continued to sketch images in black and white in school, progressed to charcoal drawings of the UAE’s royal families and heritage sites and graduated to colour and oil. He has not been idle recently, either. With the pandemic imposing restrictions and precautionary measures, he has been making good use of the stay-at-home period, to give finishing touches to his older artworks. He has also been creating new artworks.
One of them is in his own genre, which he calls Hose Pipe Art. Khalfan uses a blade to carve art pieces out of the ordinary garden hose pipe and adds gold leaf to it. He has a collection of artworks in this genre, including those of iconic figures like His Highness Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Albert Einstein and Charlie Chaplin. “I intend to present more iconic people of the world,” he says. He has also completed the portrait of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, which is his latest work. It is his way of wishing long life and good health to the Ruler of Dubai, whose birthday falls on July 15. “This artwork precisely showcases the love and admiration of the people of UAE for His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, for his peerless vision and fascinating personality, and it sketches the surprise of foreigners at the fast growing nation in the world, under visionary leadership”, Khalfan says.
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Another work is titled “3-fingers”. It talks about the trio of Win, Victory and Love, as conceived by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
How did hose pipes strike him as a suitable artistic medium? According to Khalfan, the inspiration comes from the Almighty. When he sees things, he does not think what they do, but also what they could do. So hose pipes, which are used to water plants and trees, become a canvas.
Writer Dr Alka Raghuvanshi has noted that in Khalfan’s artworks, “the brightest the reds, blues, yellows and greens rub shoulders with stark blacks and shiny purples, but instead of jarring, have the ability to soothe with their seeming simplicity.
“Look a little closer and there is great sophistication of thought and elegance of form in the works. The forms entice the onlooker to delve a little deeper and the depths capture the interest almost immediately for the connect is almost primeval as are the colours”. Khalfan’s expertise comes from a long innings of experimentation with different media. He would take pieces of plywood, put them on the floor and draw on them with charcoal. In early days, he found his subjects in newspapers and magazines by way of horses, sheikhs, traditional coffee pots and heritage buildings. He was advised to join the Dubai International Arts Center and he took a few classes, but discontinued them. It is his view that learning from others might result in copying or imitation. He wanted to be original in his work.
Khalfan elaborates his artistic views in a statement. “With colourful and bold compositions”, he says, “the objects I represent act as symbols. A white bird is always included in my paintings as an entity that understands the meaning of love. “As human beings, I believe we need to show love. The date palm is a strong, solid tree. For me it embodies confidence. I enjoy using bright primary colours like red, blue and yellow the most. I respect these colours. “My work is a search for forms that are buried in the culture and stories of the Emirates. I believe that where ever you go in life, you need to come back home one day. The most beautiful things in life are the most simple. Interestingly enough, simplicity is the most difficult thing to achieve. These are the notions I’m working though on my canvases”.
He has exhibited in places like Yas Viceroy Hotel, RAK Hospital and has been hosted by art majors such as Emaar Group and Swiss Art Gate UAE, among others. “I would like to thank the Rulers His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates and His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the United Arab Emirates Armed Forces and the people of UAE for their hard work and care for the people of the country in this pandemic situation.
“Without the visionary and effective steps of the government of UAE, the selfless sacrifice of the heroes of the nation, soldiers of health care and the warriors in the frontline who have put the safety of the nation ahead of their own, we could not have succeeded in containing and combating the spread of Covid-19. “There is no doubt this chivalry and heroism we have shown as a nation will be remembered forever and inspire us to emerge stronger and more determined to continue our journey for shaping the future”.
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