x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

New techniques push Emirati artist 'to be more creative'

When the health insurer Daman commissioned Karima Al Shomely to create greetings cards, she leapt at the chance to increase her skills.

Karima Al Shomely learning an oil-based printmaking technique in Germany. Courtesy of Daman
Karima Al Shomely learning an oil-based printmaking technique in Germany. Courtesy of Daman

For the artist Karima Al Shomely, to understand the UAE is to better understand movement. "In the waves of the sea, I've tried to show that sense of movement," she says, referring to the oil-based silk screen print series she has just created.

Al Shomely was commissioned by the health insurance provider Daman to create greeting cards to be given to stakeholders for Eid Al Fitr, Eid Al Adha and the new year. The works had to reflect an idea of movement, "inspired by Daman's drive toward a more active, healthy UAE", according to a statement.

For this, Daman connected Al Shomely with Lepsien Art Foundation, a non-profit organisation with bases in Abu Dhabi and Düsseldorf, and she spent 10 days learning silk screening from a master printmaker. "I've been using water-based [paints] here when I was a student in fine art in Sharjah, but in Germany they were using oils," says Al Shomely. "The technique really focuses on the layering of colour and the play between dark and light tones.

"It meant working from 9.30am until 8pm for those 10 days, but the technician that taught me the process was very helpful."

Al Shomely is about to begin her doctorate in fine art at Kingston University, London, so she took the opportunity to explore a subject that will define her studies: the wider meaning of the burqa.

The image she created for Eid Al Fitr shows a chessboard burqa with lines of heavy near-neon colour flowing through its shape. As a cultural symbol connected to the country's nomadic past, a sense of movement is implicit to the form.

Al Shomely has previously participated in numerous biennials and the Emirates Fine Art Society. She also had an artist residency at London's Delfina Foundation, during which she created stridently conceptual work. But returning to a more craft-based project has been fruitful, she says. "The artist must be flexible. It's good to learn more about technique, as it pushes you to be more creative and think more carefully about selecting your style."