A New Chapter in Sheikha Lateefa’s artistic endeavours begins at Dubai’s Tashkeel gallery
It is an evocative image: Sheikha Lateefa bint Maktoum, her face obscured by a yellow scarf, stands in the middle of the frame in a sparsely furnished living room. She is holding a large box-shaped clock, with several smaller time pieces suspended above.
The image, titled Patience, was turned into a real-life installation – complete with hanging, ticking clocks – as part of New Chapter, Sheikha Lateefa’s first solo, deeply personal, exhibition at Tashkeel, the Dubai gallery and studio hub she founded in 2008.
“I wanted people to get inside my head,” she says. “But also it is their stage to tell their story.”
Having the clocks working and telling the correct time is also important, she explains.
“The whole exhibition is about time passing, so I kept the clocks to the right time because patience is about being in the present moment,” she says.
“It is not in the future or past, patience is something you live in right now – you have to move with it and take it with you.”
This is wisdom Sheikha Lateefa has gained from her experience with motherhood, which she describes as the ultimate test of patience.
What is fascinating about the show is that unlike her previous work, which was shown at the UAE’s National Pavilion in Venice and now part of a touring exhibition in the United States, the latest pieces give an insight into her personal life.
With more than 88,000 followers on Instagram, Sheikha Lateefa has a public presence, given that she is a member of the Dubai royal family. But until now, her artwork has focused on the story of the UAE. She is known for depicting ever-changing local landscapes and Emirati identity, but with this new collection she turns her attention to some of the most intimate aspects of family life.
In a piece titled Family, for example, she stands with her husband and son at a window, looking at a field of large trees with a lake and cranes in the distance.
In Connection, she sits with her young son, Maktoum, on a sofa reading him a book. There are several small details in the frame, including old family photos. One of the most-dramatic images depicts the artist’s wedding dress, before she wore it on her big day. Her face is never shown in the images and all the scenes are designed to symbolise certain elements of her journey through life.
“Each image works as a stage performance, with symmetry and composition, because in many ways I feel like life is a performance,” she says. “There are many layers and levels and stories behind stories. Of course pregnancy, too, is also all about stages.”
Her pregnancy is captured in Growth – an image in which Sheikha Lateefa stands on a bed covered in petals, holding a cloud in front of her face.
In Transition, we are in the desert, and Sheikha Lateefa is standing with one leg on the ground and the other on the rim of a sunken pit. She is tugging on a rope made of flowers, with her baby lying on her chest.
“For me, this image is about the struggle in the beginning, after you have the baby, of finding the balance between the highs and lows and pulling through when you know another human being is relying on you,” she says.
In her artist statement, Sheikha Lateefa says the creation of New Chapter was so intense that “it almost felt like giving birth to a new baby again”.
The exhibition’s theme of renewal has also seeped into her creativity.
As a result, Sheikha Lateefa now approaches her work differently.
“I try to be as honest as possible and make work from my heart,” she says.
“Now this exhibition is done, I need to explore more and see where it takes me.”
• New Chapter runs until February 23 at Tashkeel. Visit www.tashkeel.org for more information
Updated: January 24, 2017 04:00 AM