A composition blazes with features of Islamic heritage. Kamal Kassim/Gulf Today
Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer
Ramadan Art Nights, a splurge-on-art and gorge-on-food event (till Ramadan end) that includes Arabic heritage and Calligraphy at Novotel Hotels & Resorts, Sharjah Expo Centre, in collaboration with Orient Restaurant and organised by Emirates-based Art4you Gallery, showcases and celebrates the country’s artist community.
“The exhibition intends to provide a platform during the Holy Month of Ramadan and provides exposure for emerging artists in the region,” says Jesno Jackson, Founder of Art4you and an artist herself. “It aims to encourage passion and creativity within the community in this pandemic situation.” Eight women artists from RAK, Ajman, Dubai and Sharjah — Roa Al Madani from the UAE, Gulnaz Shakeel and Bina Safdar from Pakistan, Yasmin Naeem from Saudi Arabia, Natalia Vityugova from Russia, Jackson, Thauheeda Thameem and Megha Manjarekar from India — welcome and celebrate Ramadan through art.
The exhibition showcases works inspired by calligraphy, mosque architecture, portraits of Rulers, Islamic designs and patterns, Arabic culture and wildlife and the environment of the UAE. “Along with the spirit of togetherness, Ramadan also signifies a period of deep reflection and brings people closer to their purposes and aspirations,” Jackson says. “The Art4you Gallery initiative also includes several Ramadan-inspired events for all ages in this Holy Month of Ramadan, with workshops on calligraphy, object painting, wall hangings, writing Arabic script and Islamic pattern drawings — to bring this very spirit alive during Ramadan Art Nights.”
The Art4you Founder emphasises the need for artists to uplift each other at a time when society is being impacted by the pandemic. “Whether it’s for the creative or any other industry, this is probably the most important time in our lives to come together, help each other and uplift our ecosystems,” says Rengi Cherian, Art4you Co-founder.
When asked about the challenges of setting up the initiative during Covid-19, Jackson said that when women in art set their minds to achieve something they strongly believe in, they buzz with energy — and nothing can stop them.
“I am a creative artist myself and when I come up with an idea, I just go ahead and execute it — make it happen, defying any obstacle that might come in the way. “I have always relied on the support from of community; I always had a passion for designing my own events, on my own terms. The brand is named Created to Create after Art4you — this has always been my greatest inspiration. “I always believe that difficult situations are about pushing us to think outside the box, and bring the best out of ourselves. We learned how to make quick decisions during Covid19 — and that’s how Ramadan Art Nights was designed.”
“A good way to mark Ramadan is with a celebration of the Arabic script,” says Yasmin Naeem, one of the participating artists. “The Islamic art of my work that is transformed into stunning geometric patterns, is exhibited in this event,” says Bina Safdar. The Founders hope to expand the reach of the initiative to empower more up-and-coming artists to have a platform to showcase their hard work, in a suitable place. Recently, Art4you had presented a virtual art exhibition, offering tribute to the UAE Rulers titled The Legacy of Leadership. It had portraits of Rulers brought together on one platform (Feb. 22 - Apr.).
It presented eleven artists from eight nationalities, with a selection of fifty works commemorating the Rulers of the Emirates in different mediums — oil, sketches, eggshell works, thread art, mixed media, acrylic, charcoal, pastels and paper cut works, among others. The artists were Stephanie Neville (South Africa); Thisara Padmapriya (Sri Lanka); Reynaldo Jr (Philippines); Roa Al Madani (UAE); Victor Sitali (Zambia); Habeeb Rahman, Manjula Kaimal, Anil Kamble and Febina Dilshad (India); Gulalek Esenova (Turkmenistan) and Osama Khalaf (Syria). The exhibition was officially opened by Tasnim Salem Al Falasi, Environmental Awareness Section Manager, Dubai Municipality.
Earlier, Art4you also hosted a virtual exhibition celebrating the mixed media work of contemporary artists. The gallery had brought them together from all across the world (Dec. 20, 2020 – Jan. 28, 2021).
Titled A Little of This, A Little of That, it explored the compositions of twenty five artists, with a selection of forty works, in a stream of consciousness visual style, including abstractions.
Breathing new life into found objects, collaging different materials to create conversations between texture and content with abstract styles, Art4you honoured the mixed media theme manifested by different types of materials such as plastic, textile, fabric, glass, Styrofoam, canvas, clay, metal, and the like. “Mixed media artists are routinely pushing the boundaries of materials and concepts by exploring new technologies, techniques and aesthetics, and crossing disciplinary borders,” Jackson says. “So, rather than limiting artists to a narrow theme, we selected works which were not afraid to push boundaries. “Work from any media was accepted, including all types of contemporary craft.The exhibition was juried.”
Having the experience of curating more than 150 exhibitions, Jackson says that Art4you Gallery is a community that aims to bring out the best from artists and broaden their horizons “to open the doors for limitless possibilities. This initiative is a platform for hidden talents to emerge into the limelight.”
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