x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Jumeirah Beach swimming in diversity

Hatty Pedder talks about the creative process behind her painting Jumeirah Beach, part of her exhibition at the Mojo Gallery in Dubai

Jumeirah Beach by Hatty Pedder
Jumeirah Beach by Hatty Pedder

Relaxing bathers dip their toes in the water, as the industrial constructions of the dry docks of Dubai punctuate the skyline. In its composition, it's a scene reminiscent of Seurat's pointillist masterpiece Bathers at Asnières, with its industrial background, but boy, does this have a lot more humour. The artist and illustrator Hatty Pedder, from whose The Social Seen exhibition at the Mojo Gallery this image is drawn, spent six weeks, on and off, creating the mass of humanity portrayed here on Jumeirah Beach.

"One of the things that really struck me at the beach was people having this lovely time and then the dry dock in the background. And then everybody's quite disconnected from each other with different things going on."

The Central Saint Martins-trained Pedder has spent the past 15 years observing the myriad cultures of Dubai, after moving here with her husband and baby just a year after graduating from art college. "Dubai was very different, obviously, from how it is now. It has become a lot bigger and a much more exciting place," she says.

That's what this picture is all about. "My subject matter always stems from people, and one of the inspirations for The Social Seen was that Dubai is so multicultural and there are so many different events or settings, and there are a million different worlds connecting. I find Dubai quite a quirky place, and the fact that we have so many different national costumes and ways of dressing."

That variety is on full display in Pedder's Jumeirah Beach image, from tiny, detailed swimming figures to the portraits of the foreground (though they are not portraits of specific people): it's quite a feat of composition and draughtsmanship. Pedder relied on snapshots taken while on the beach to construct this panorama and ensure that the detail of the docks was correct.

"I went down with my camera and just took lot of photographs to get the dry dock correct, and then masses of photos randomly of things, so that I could have, like, the composition of the environment and setting.

"I didn't go up to photograph people's faces - photography's more of a starting point, you know. Otherwise I'd have been in trouble - it's not really a place you can run around and photograph people too much. Pretty much I then draw directly. I might use a little bit of pencil, just for structure, but I like to keep loose work on the people, otherwise it loses the spirit."

She collaged in a photograph of the drinks can at the front - a piece of litter that is a common site on the beaches - for a bit of humour, but most of that lighthearted mood comes from the characterful vignettes that people the picture.

"There was some sort of angry business deal going on with two characters - I don't know what on earth was going on but it was really interesting," says Pedder. "And then in the sea there are two identical twins. I like the little fly on the drinking straw, and the very hairy man with the medallion on the chair. And there's a guy photographing a girl in a golden bikini, the guy with a massive gut walking behind the shower in one of the corners. And the fuchsia guy. I just made him fuchsia because he looked really sunburnt."

The Social Seen by Hatty Pedder is on display until October 30 at Mojo Gallery, Al Quoz. Visit www.themojogallery.com for directions.