Butterflies make a splash of glorious colour on the wall.
Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer
The “Transformation Wall” is a visual fairytale - or, shall we say, a visual “Butterfly tale”?
It is a wall at Al Warqa City Mall, Dubai, which extends from its parking lot to the entry point of Gate No: 1 (G1), and has been painted with butterflies by Belgian artist F.man.
Extending 120 metres, the wall, says the artist, “is the tale of the butterfly within each of us, metamorphosing to spread its wings and fly to horizons no caterpillar could ever fathom …
“It is a garden of hope that gives the opportunity to spread our wings in these strange times, in the middle of the desert, in Al Warqa City Mall”.
Once upon a time, F.man continues, in the hottest of the summer of a year no one will ever forget, in a parking wall made of concrete and grey, in the middle of what was not so long ago the Desert of Dubai … an artist and her magic paintbrushes started work to make gloom and bleakness disappear, by painting enchanting rainbow butterflies. Commissioned by Union Coop to embellish the Dubai cooperative’s new iconic mall, soon to be its high tech head office, the “Transformation Wall” is a monumental mural painting, 120m long by 3.5m height, executed from July to November, 2020, by F.man.
The viewer undertakes a journey that becomes a holistic discovery of the transformation, from the reality of the painted butterflies to their deeper and symbolic meanings.
Butterflies are a major symbol in art. They represent transition, celebration, and lightness. Myths and lore honour the butterfly as a symbol of transformation and metamorphosis.
Belgian artist F.man.
Butterflies also stand for freedom, fun, naturalness and purity. They flit among flowers, awakening a sense of lightness and joy, reminding us not to take things too seriously.
On your journey alongside the “Transformation Wall”, you will encounter twenty eight butterflies, widening your vision, till you reach a peregrine falcon hovering above the Alps.
On the edges of the wall, the viewer is surrounded by two dreamlike representations (mountains on one side and sea on the other), where butterflies transform into suns.
At the mall entrance, a blue butterfly flies in a forest of purple flowers, connecting us to our secret garden or our subconscious, and allow us to gain a newer perspective on life, till we reach a misty panorama, where the falcon, enjoying absolute freedom, uplifts us to a even higher perspective …
Through her interpretation of a changing world constrained by the pandemic and its consequences, the internationally acclaimed F.man has created an immersive and universal journey, which echoes everyone’s personal experience and quest for spiritual elevation.
The artist, guided by her creativity, life force and sensibility, saturates concrete with a vibrant flow of colours, emotions and monumental butterflies. It jogs our lives, which includes forced immersion in a motionless and in an almost deathlike conditions of a society in lockdown.
The main purpose of the “Transformation Wall” is definitely to bring positivity and hope. The caterpillar represents us on the material level related to our pre-covid existence; the chrysalis or cocoon represents our tomb related to the lockdown period; and the full-grown butterfly represents resurrection and rebirth.
The adult butterfly symbolises the regaining of our freedom from the state of our present. From a chrysalis of solitary confinement where we reflected or confronted our own thoughts and emotions, to the ultimate liberation from an unprecedented detention, the metamorphosis enables us to regain our better selves.
“Now that life is restarting, it is time to spread our wings ... Art is one of the best, if not the best, catalyst for this metamorphosis; it can touch and impact any of us, anywhere...”, says F.man.
The “Transformation Wall” brings art to the centre of daily life, into the middle of our busy days, shifting our perspective from a mundane parking lot, towards beauty, from buying towards being.
F.man relentlessly questions the conservative and yet still dominant, vision of Art as the privilege of elites who gather in museums, galleries, art fairs, auction houses and around private collections, who pat each others’ backs and move on — till the next vernissage.
She insists on expressing her talent in humble or unexpected places, offering her Art for everyone — without any discrimination of education, age, origin or wealth.
Working on a site that was still under construction had many challenges. It forced her out of her usual creative, comfort zone. The realisation of the “Transformation Wall” in itself was a tour de force, that pushed her to overcome her own physical limits (extreme Dubai summer heat, almost uninterrupted work to cover the wall in twelve weeks, noise, dust, etc). It could have been performance art.
But it allowed her to interact with the very first viewers of her mural, namely, construction workers — unfamiliar with Art.
She witnessed their first surprise at seeing her work. Their attraction to it was an unexpected, rich, feedback she got from the making of the “Transformation Wall”.
She remembers the workers rested under the butterflies many a time. Their dreams (she calls the workers “dreamcatchers”), perhaps opened the gates to other realities.
In search of the creative Muse, she has travelled to Antwerp, Amsterdam, Vienna, Paris, Bratislava, Prague, Strasburg, Kuala Lumpur and Perth and is inspired by the visions of Klimt, da Vinci, Magritte and Rosetti. Others who grabbed her attention include CoBrA, Belgian artists Rik Wouters and Fernand Khnopff, David Cox, Sandro Botticelli, Nicolas Poussin and Rubens.
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