With the growth of a particular industry or market come (one would hope) opportunities for new people to succeed. The development of the UAE art market and art scene has already drawn increased attention and financing to Middle Eastern Art and Creators. Time will tell if this spotlight will equally benefit women artists as it will men, but for now, Theodore & C. would like to draw your attention to some of our favourite emerging and established UAE women artists.
Lamya Gargash dedicates a big part of her oeuvre to documenting the forgotten spaces in public and private realms in Emirati society amidst an ever self-renewing urban landscape. Her first artist book, Presence (Dubai: The Third Line, 2006), is a photographic series documenting recently vacated houses and structures in the U.A.E. that have been abandoned or left for demolition. She has since then documented various interiors & spaces ranging from social & cultural clubs to budget hotels & formal living rooms known in Arabic as the Majlis.
‘This body of work is simply an ode to my city, my home Dubai. One could say this serves as my visual diary whereby I’ve documented family members, social gatherings, interiors and various part of the city. There are many sites that speak to me and there’s a definite dire need to preserve and document. The mundane intrigues me and what we overlook carries with it infinite feelings and emotions.’
Throughout her career, she has won a number of awards for her work in film and photography. At the 53rd Venice Biennale (2009), her series Familial, which documents budget hotels in the U.A.E., was featured in the U.A.E.'s first Venice Biennale exhibition, It's Not You, It's Me. In 2004 she received first prize in the Emirates Film Competition, as well as a Special Recognition award in Dubai Media City's Ibda¹a Media Students Awards for her movie Wet Tiles.
Lamya Gargash, Grandfather’s lapis ring, Dubai studies
Jaralla is another artist concerned with the rapid changes in the Gulf region and the way it affects familial bonds and interpersonal relationships. In her most recent exhibition (which was Jaralla’s first solo show) the artist created a series of mixed media works that trace the societal and cultural changes in Abu Dhabi since 1980s. Jaralla's work highlights the fashions and familial dynamics of that era, a moment when parks and beaches were key physical spaces that shaped the community, and when large family outings were commonplace. The artist suggests that the pre-digital era was a time when in-person contact, time spent as a collective and inter-generational bonds were more prolific then the individualism that she witnesses today. Jaralla’s work establishes a sense of connection to the past while foregrounding the dramatic evolution of the city that she inhabits today.
Almaha Jaralla, AL SHELAYLAH الشليلة, 2023
Oil on canvas
90 x 90 cm
Jaralla took inspiration from her own family photo archive, primarily created by her aunt (after whom the exhibition is named). The oil paintings are also loaded upon unconventional canvases that the artist has fashioned from traditional men's garments referred to as Maawaz. The designs originate from Aden and materialise the artist’s desire to foreground the cultural and historical value of Yemeni heritage. The patterns and textures of the Maawaz contribute an unexpected visual element to Jaralla’s paintings and establish a dynamic interplay between tradition and modernity.
Almaha Jaralla, SANAD سند, 2023
Oil on textile
90 x 90 cm
The most established artist on this list, Fatma Lootah is often described as one of the most important UAE cultural and art ambassadors all over the world. Born and raised in Dubai,
Lootah now lives in Verona (Italy), but regularly comes back to Dubai where she has her own studio.
Her career includes performance art experience but nowadays she prefers to concentrate in abstract art and installations. She summarises stories that cross from sadness to joy and everything in between just by painting a face. Her paintings have a diversity of characters and styles, whether abstract, portrait or more traditionally Emirati, featuring earth and orange colours.
But her passion is painting children, using their innocence to capture reality with a bright flair of colour. She also frequently uses local themes in her work, including women, deserts, horses and camels.
Lootah exhibited in Italy, France, UAE, Austria, Morocco and USA (where her art was also shown in Times Square in New York together with the project Nasdaq Artist in Residence) and in many other important countries across the world.
Fatma Lootah, The Bride. Image: Courtesy of Fatma Lootah.
Fatema Al Fardan
Fatema Al Fardan fell in love with photography unexpectedly while working for the school’s newsletter. Now Fatema Al Fardan is amongst the UAE’s newest and most promising multidisciplinary emerging artists, who showcased her work in the Middle East Institute’s Art Gallery’s 2020 online art exhibition Art in Isolation: Creativity in the Time of Covid-19, and most recently showcased her photography series, We Dance Asynchronously on the Same Stage, at Abu Dhabi’s Warehouse 421 as part of the ongoing group exhibition, Mina Zayed:Reflections on Past Futures.
Fatema Al Fardan, Heroine. Image: Fatema Al Fardan
The exhibition examines the state of “suspended existence” that Mina Zayed— Abu Dhabi’s port and the surrounding area that contains warehouses, a toy store, co-op, wedding hall, the Action Zone arcade, a fruits and vegetables market a fish market, a carpet market and an agricultural market— is in due to developmental changes to the area, which have already led to the abandonment and demolishment of certain spaces within the Mina. The changing area is meaningful to many of Abu Dhabi’s residents and citizens, including Fatema Al Fardan, and is a space where many memories live. In the exhibition that features the work of 11 artists, Fatema participates with a photography series, that captures her and her family members in various locations at Mina Zayed. Fatema, who comes from a diverse cultural background, uses Mina Zayed as a site for discussions and narrative erasures that come with globalization and gentrification.
Fatema Al Fardan, Mn Ana? from We Dance Asynchronously on the Same Stage. Image: Courtesy of Warehouse421 and Fatema Al Fardan.
We at Theodore & C. admire these talented creators and would be delighted to help you diversify your art collection. Take a look at our currently available works here or contact our team for more information.