There are few painters around the world who specialise in portraying polo matches. Those who do tend to paint in a more traditional style, attempting to capture the movement of horses on the pitch or players in proud poses with their trophies.
That's why the work of Eugenia Laprida stands out. Rather than producing predictable depictions, the 28-year-old artist is striving to push the boundaries of polo-themed art. And as the UAE polo season kicks off again this year, she's more in demand than ever.
"I'm really busy these days," says Laprida.
Based in Dubai for the past three years, she grew up in a polo-playing family on a farm in Pilar, near Buenos Aires, one of four children who attended polo matches and was surrounded by horses and polo players from an early age. Her father, Horacio Laprida, was a professional player who made his living from transporting polo ponies to matches around the world. As a child, Laprida often travelled with him.
Despite having an entire family heavily involved in the sport, she says she failed to show any talent in the saddle. She later studied visual arts and fine art at university in Buenos Aires, with her upbringing influencing her decision to focus specifically on polo as a painter.
"I'm very lucky in that I've been part of the professional polo scene all my life," she says. "When I came here, I decided I wanted to give back to polo. But I wanted to do something different."
As a result, Laprida creates polo-themed pictures not to secure commissions, but because it feels right as an artist.
"I paint pictures that I want to paint - for the sake of art," she explains. "Not so that they will sell. As a result, I put a lot of thought into how to approach the subject in new and creative ways."
Rodolfo Ducos, a professional polo player from Argentina who has lived in Dubai for the past 20 years and now plays for Zedan Polo, has purchased several of Laprida's paintings.
"I've travelled to many countries to participate in matches and there are very few people painting polo full-time," he said. "What she is doing is truly something different. I like the fact that she approaches polo in a different manner from other artists. It's not what you'd expect."
Having exhibited during each of the past three polo seasons, Laprida's work has appeared at the major clubs in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. What's more, it has evolved markedly during that time.
While she tended towards a traditional style at first - painting horses in oils or movement on the pitch in watercolours - her latest exhibits, which she calls the Gold Series, take the form of stencil art. She paints identical images of polo players on large gold backgrounds, with obvious influences by artists such as Andy Warhol and Banksy.
"I used gold as a background to signify luxury and exclusivity - elements that are associated with the 'sport of kings'. But I wanted the art to be accessible to a wider audience. Polo has long had an elitist image, but I hoped my pictures would appeal to more people. In a sense, it's consumer art, but with a modern twist. And there is no one in the world doing what I'm doing right now," she adds proudly.
So far, her work has been well received. She not only takes commissions, but is constantly working on the next exhibition. Her most recent, held at the Desert Palm Polo Club, sold out completely. Laprida is planning another for the Presidents Cup in Ghantoot polo on March 30.
Meanwhile, she cannot foresee tiring of her favourite subject.
"It's a challenge for me to come up with different ways to approach it," she says. "And I have so many ideas for things to do in the future."
For more information, visit eugenialapridapolo.com
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