x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Art bigger than life

Local artists have their works displayed beside Warhol and Banksy at The Big Picture exhibition at Jumeirah Strip Mall in Dubai.

The Bull by Matt Ryder, part of The Big Picture exhibition in Dubai. Courtesy The Big Picture
The Bull by Matt Ryder, part of The Big Picture exhibition in Dubai. Courtesy The Big Picture

Andy Warhol’s brightly coloured image of Marilyn Monroe is about as famous as art can get. Edition number 450, out of 750 in existence, is hanging in a Dubai gallery this week, but the stars of the show are the artworks by 45 UAE-based artists. The Big Picture, now in its second year, focuses on pieces that are large – more than one square metre in size – and big on impact, which is why marquee-name artworks have been included. “We want to show that artists are bigger than life,” says Ram Nath, the organiser and curator.

Selecting the artists

More than 250 artists responded to an open call put out on social media. A panel, including Nath and the team that host The Big Picture as well as representatives from Pro Art Gallery, where the exhibition is being held, sifted through each application. “We looked at the quality of the art and the medium,” says Nath.

The theme

Initially the theme was human anatomy and organs but, deciding they didn’t want too many skulls and hearts, they changed their minds and left it open for the artists.

“In the end we wanted to have a mix between UAE artists and internationally acclaimed artists, to show how they would fit together,” explains Nath.

The exhibition also includes a signed lithograph of the triptych Cow Going Abstract by Roy Lichtenstein and an original drawing titled Self Portrait by Keith Haring, plus pieces by Damien Hirst, Banksy and Jean-Michel Basquiat.

“We are not comparing them, but we do want to give the whole show credibility,” says Nath.

What the artists think

Matt Ryder, from the United Kingdom, who mainly focuses on creating surreal wildlife images, will be exhibiting a painting called The Bull. He says: “This show appealed because of the large dimensions – I really enjoy working big and I had a couple of oversized pieces that I hadn’t exhibited, so this show was particularly good for me.

Ryder says that The Big Picture is part of a larger support system for local artists that is growing at the moment.

Ruksana Hussain, a Canadian artist who is showing her work in an exhibition for the second time with this show, won a competition through Virgin to have her photograph displayed. “I am thrilled to have this chance,” she says. “I’m grateful and hoping just to immerse myself in it.”

For her self-portrait titled Marriage of Tangled Illusions, Hussain also won a year’s representation from Pro Art Gallery.

The bigger picture

Nath, an artist himself, founded The Big Picture to give local artists a different platform outside of the gallery scene.

As a self-sufficient initiative, it has been successful with not just the annual event but with other exhibitions that run throughout the rest of the year.

“We are a non-profit organisation, so we don’t do this for any reason other than to promote fellow artists and to bring something different to the scene here in the UAE.”

The Big Picture runs until Tuesday at Pro Art Gallery in Dubai. More information at www.proartuae.com

aseaman@thenational.ae