The origins of Islamic Art

dome rock

Dome of the Rock. Jerusalem. Completed AD 691

I’ve always been a big fan of Art Sawa and their next few classes are particularly on subjects I am passionate about. Marta Ameri will touch on the origins of Islamic art on the 23rd of September.

The middle of the 7th century A.D. saw with the rise of Islam the creation of a new religion and of a great military empire.  It was in these early years that Islamic Art developed and coalesced into a definitive style. By looking at early monuments such as the Dome of the Rock and the Great Mosque of Damascus, this class will explore the ways in which the rulers of the first Islamic empires combined existing artistic styles with new Islamic elements to develop what we now identify as Islamic art.

The class will also discuss issues such as how the precepts of Islamic belief affected early Islamic Art, and the ways in which the early Islamic rulers used art and architecture to express their growing power.

If you are in Dubai and interested in Islamic Art history, then learning about at after work may be a perfect start to your evenings over the next few weeks.

Opera Recital – Arias and songs

Opera Shereen shabnam

It’s the season for Opera….after a tryst I had with little diva a couple of weeks ago at IMAX Meydan (which Tash enjoyed heaps), now Art Sawa is, as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility program, hosting another live Opera recital performed by Clare and David Lesser.

The programme includes highlights from some of the most beautiful music of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, including ravishing French songs by Duparc and Fauré, the heart-rending Verismo operatic style of Puccini and Cilea and spectacular vocal fireworks in Meyerbeer¹s Ombra Leggera.

Clare Lesser studied at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London, Birmingham University and Birmingham Conservatoire. Then, at the University of Sussex, she completed groundbreaking research on the music of B.A. Zimmermann. She specializes in the performance of 20th and 21st century music, and has collaborated with many composers on new works, giving over fifty premieres.

She has recorded Lieder by Wolfgang Rihm, chamber music by Richard Emsley, the works for solo soprano and soprano with instrumental trio by Michael Finnissy, and many other contemporary classics. She has performed throughout Europe, including at the Edinburgh and Avignon International Festivals. She was nominated for the Royal Philharmonic Society Singing Award in 2003.

David Lesser studied the piano at the Royal College of Music in London and then the music composition at the University of Huddersfield. He was Senior Teaching Fellow in Music and Open Studies Certificate coordinator at the University of Warwick (1993-2007). His music has been widely performed in Britain and Europe by Ensemble Aleph, Accroche Note, Linda Hirst, Ian Pace and others. As a performer he specializes in the music of the Twentieth century, vocal repertoire, and has given a number of world and British premieres. He is active as a composer, performer, lecturer and teacher.

Art Sawa is provides a rare opportunity to enjoy these two exceptionally talented musicians performing arias and songs by Mozart, Puccini, Gretry, Duparc, Faure, Mahler, Meyerbeer, Cilea and Benjamin Britten .

Flower Power

Robert Hammond’s Flower Power

© Robert Hammond – Courtesy Art Sawa

One of my favourite venues to take in a bit of art ingestion after work has to be Art Sawa. The next artist to showcase his talent there will be Robert Hammond with his ‘Flower Power’ exhibition.

Robert studied Fine Art at St. Martins and WSCAD in the UK. His early works are painterly compositions in the neo-expressionist tradition. Robert’s latest works bring-forth new materials coupled with a new aesthetic, entitled visual ritual. In his wall sculptures, large cartoon faces and figures, outlined by thick curved metal profiles – contain montage imagery behind polished glass surfaces. At first whimsical and cute – on second look you are peering through these figures into pulsating montages of dripping paint, concentric line patterns and smeared chalk.

At play is a marriage of optical patterns, corrugated space and unfocused images. It is in the playful mastery of lines where the power of his art lies. His works are essentially metal line drawings, extruded into the 3rd dimension – at times concentric, converging and diverging, at times kaleidoscopic. Robert’s art is about strengthening our perception to everyday images, textures and reflection, emphasizing their curious properties by singling them out and playing them off against one another.

His compositions are deliberate, sparing, virtuosic and concise – cool and without context One can’t ignore the reflective quality of his works. Deliberately highly reflective – the art jumps beyond the surface – shining back to the viewer, testing the viewer’s retina. Robert’s works overall exhibit a visual bravado mixed with new visual lucidities – that bring facility and whimsy to large bright and powerful compositions

At the center of the Flower Power exhibition will be a collection of flower pieces – a kaleidoscope of arcs juxtaposed with hatched backgrounds – A melody with a rainbow of colors. Flower Power is the latest iteration of Robert Hammond’s Visual Ritual conception. Visual Ritual is about strengthening our perception to patterns, surfaces, textures and reflection – emphasizing their properties. At the core of the Visual Ritual conception is the notion of line – how they focus, lead, and drop off the eye. Robert Hammond’s work is an interface of signals, which guides and activates, it seeks to crystallize everyday our ways of seeing, by simplifying illusion, outline, movement and abstraction.

Sparing, cool and deliberately void of context, Robert Hammond’s work is bold, elegant and alluring – a presence hard to ignore. The exhibition is open to public from the 28th of November until 16th December 🙂

Senses and Sensibilities


Hend Al Falafly’s pencil and acrylic on canvas

Last week I found my yoga, zumba & Muay Thai classes missing on schedule an entire evening – not wanting to do anything in the gym that was not musically oriented, I set out art gallery hopping so my creative side gets a dose of eye candy (not male related for once).

The most delightful exhibition, being a super sensuous chick that I am was Hend El Falafly’s exhibition at Art Sawa. Hend, an Egyptian who lives and works in Cairo was sweetness and light personified and it was my luck that she was at the gallery at the time of my visit.

Over some nuts and dried apricots with fruit cocktails, we got chatting and it was interesting to marry her persona to the paintings I was so overwhelmed by on the walls.

Hend explains that realism at times worries her and she wants to express that through her work. Being inquisitive, I dig deeper and it is clear that her work has a symbolic and very expressive meaning behind it. Being a woman and despite my tomboy tendencies, I was moved by each of her sexily sensuous pieces.

Hend explores through her intimate works in ”Senses and Sensibilities” the different emotions expressed by women, usually which are part of her everyday life. She uses body language to understand the meaningful silence carried over by their experiences and stories. These are reflected in all its semantic in the facial expressions and movements of the hands, the feet, the look ,the clothes and emotions repressed.

And with the silence of the lips, it is usually the eyes which transcends all the languages and spoken in a glance, an unspeakable tongue that denies lies and hypocrisies. I agree with this fully as I’m always told that no matter what I am thinking or feeling, my eyes always betray what I really feel and are the windows to my soul….its not always a good thing but over the years I’ve learnt that my eyes betray me and if it reflects sadness at any time, I end up crying because I know the person across me knows I’m hurting….its not nice for the other person but hey….I’m a woman and I can do what I feel like.

Hend tells me that an array of different areas of reality inspires her and have great impact on her works, which is revealed through incredible movement and light. No secret can be kept hidden……if you want to see her amazing work for yourself, its at DIFC Art Sawa until 19th June. Enjoy!

With artist Hend El Falafly


Next week, like many weeks recently, Dubai will see a surge in art exhibitions by artists of all ages, different backgrounds and mediums. A few have impressed me and I felt like writing a bit about them despite the hectic schedule of the Dubai Fashion Week that has kept us running all over the city in the evenings. I particularly liked the off beat ones organised to support noble causes.

For those who are not familiar with Art Sawa, their next bit is presented by Mawaheb from beautiful people called ‘Walk into our world’. Mawaheb is the Arabic word for ‘talented’. They are a non-profit art studio for young adults with special needs, the first of its kind in the UAE and located in Dubai’s cultural and historical district, Al Bastakiya.

Most artists, aim to create their own identity by forming a style that is unique. However, the artists from Mawaheb are gifted with an untainted and unique view of the world around them, vividly
reflected in the beautiful art that they create in their studio.

Most people say that about the paintings done by innocent children as well. A lawyer friend of mine last month showed me some amazing paintings done by his two daughters during their playtime. I was so impressed by the vivid use of colours and wished I had spent time with Tash doing these kind of creative activities while she was younger. I hope its not too late for her to invest more than an hour she gets in art class at school after hours.

Mawaheb guys endeavour as an art studio to be self sustainable and all money raised will be invested back into the future development of the studio, which will in turn benefit their artists. If you do have time to drop into Art Sawa next week, I am sure you will be inspired. I have made up my mind to give up gym for one evening and drop by on the way home after work to see what these young generation of artists have come up with.