x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Sheikha Maryam, winner of the Christo and Jeanne-Claude Award reflects on her success

The Christo and Jeanne-Claude Award winner Sheikha Maryam bint Sultan bin Zayed Al Nahyan says her work is inspired by mirage.

Mirali, the winner of the inaugural Christo & Jean-Claude prize, by Sheikha Maryam bint Sultan bin Zayed Al NAhyan. Lee Hoagland / The National
Mirali, the winner of the inaugural Christo & Jean-Claude prize, by Sheikha Maryam bint Sultan bin Zayed Al NAhyan. Lee Hoagland / The National

Sheikha Maryam bint Sultan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, a granddaughter of the late president Sheikh Zayed and a graduate of Zayed University, has been declared the inaugural winner of the Christo and Jeanne-Claude Award, presented by New York University Abu Dhabi in partnership with the Abu Dhabi Music and Art Foundation. She has developed her work into a full exhibition, currently on display in Abu Dhabi's New York University Downtown Campus as part of the Abu Dhabi Festival, before touring the country. Sheikha Maryam discusses her award-winning work.

The winning work

"The piece is titled Mirari. It is inspired by a mirage. I wanted to give an illusion of a mirage that is coming closer. Each triangle has three points and each point represents past, present and future. It is inspired by Sheikh Zayed, who said: 'Those who don't have a past, don't have a future.' Each piece is like a broken image and is made from stainless steel. I wanted to have an image that would have a strong reflection. There are just three types of triangles of three different sizes and there are 30 pieces."

The concept

"I have been playing with the concept of real and what is not real a lot lately. I tried different approaches of articulating this idea. The pieces actually assemble like a puzzle. I wanted something that was very abstract, something to have a scattered look somehow. But if you walk around the piece and view it from different points, it will not all look the same. This is the effect that I want. Also, if it's displayed outdoors, the reflection of the buildings will also not look the same."

The effect

"Not everything is what you see and what you see is not always real. What I am perceiving here is that it may look real but as you get closer to reality you realise that some things are not really there. This is why I like mirages. It lures travellers to think that there is an oasis at this specific area and it brings them closer and closer and they come farther from where they came from."

Showcasing the work

"It will be a challenge to showcase it because my work is site-specific. So in each site it will look different and will have a different effect. I will show the work in Sharjah in the Biennial and in Ruwais and Qasr Al Sarab. For Ruwais I wanted something very urban, at a place they didn't have modern art. They would know paintings but not this kind of modern art. I hope they would have a lot of questions and see how curious they are about these kinds of [artworks] that is not just handed out to them. This is because the concept of this piece would not be understood until they read the artist statement behind it. While in Sharjah, I am sure they will articulate the piece differently because they are a very arts-orientated audience."

The motivation

"When I do an arts piece, in general I do it for me first because it has to please me. I am also very conceptual. I also think about what I want to give the people before I work on the piece. Sometimes the art piece itself inspires the concept. But if I think about the people, I know that nothing will please them, so it's best I please myself first."

On UAE talent

"This is a small fragment of the talent in the UAE. There are so many great artists here in the UAE that really don't showcase their work as much as they should. It's not because of the opportunities, it is because of their confidence. As human beings, we always put ourselves down, we never think our work is perfect unless we hear it from several people. But you will never know how good your work is until you show it to the world. It is a scary thing but something that all artists should do."

Tour dates

Mirari's first stop is at New York University Abu Dhabi Downtown Campus until April 4. Then it is at Sharjah's Maraya Art Park at Al Majaz Waterfront from April 9 to 30. The work will go to the Ruwais Higher Colleges of Technology from May 5 to 26 before finally arriving in Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort from May 30 to June 16.

For details go to www.nyuad.nyu.edu/christo


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