Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 20 July 2018

Sheikha's award reveals depth of young artistic talent

How refreshing to find a mature collection at Sheikha Manal's Young Artist Award exhibition, being held at the Dubai Ladies Club.

I hate to say it, but when wandering through an exhibition of work from young artists there can exist a sense that one is peering at the kind of pieces that would better adorn a school wall. How refreshing, then, to find a more mature collection at Sheikha Manal's Young Artist Award exhibition, being held at the Dubai Ladies Club. The award is a generous one. This year, its third in operation, more than 250 entries were submitted for consideration from 14 nationalities. They were whittled down to 50 pieces, and on Tuesday the victors will be announced. Judged by a panel of international art patrons and academics, three outstanding contributions will be plucked from three categories: fine art, photography and multimedia. The winner receives Dh30,000, second place takes Dh20,000 and third Dh10,000.

The exhibition features 50 pieces, among which are several that stand out. One of the strongest is a wry series of photographs by Michelle Alejandra Peric titled People of Dubai. Collectively, the work is made up of six shots of six people - a man wearing a khandoura, another in a suit, a worker in overalls, a fashionista in a tea dress and heels, a woman clad in an abaya and a tourist staring into a pair of binoculars. All fairly ordinary, you would be forgiven for thinking. But then you note that all have been caught leaping in the air, a foot or so above the ground.

The effect is comical, lighthearted and it makes a delightful change from your average portraits of people on the street. Several of the backgrounds make a clever juxtaposition too - the suited businessman is jumping in the empty desert, the fashionista amid a backdrop of desolate buildings, the woman in the abaya against a swimming pool scene. A good number of the pieces here are photographs. Notable others include a shot by Carlos Dweezil A Navea, who has captured an untitled, black-and-white frame of a young boy breakdancing on a forecourt, with the Dubai Intercontinental recognisable behind the baseball-capped onlookers. The shot is fresh and energetic.

Striking, too, is a frame by Fawaghi Fareed al Fardan. Here, a wizened, elderly woman in a black abaya sits on a pavement, her bare foot pointing out from underneath her. Alongside this solitary, sad figure is a box of fresh peaches and melons, the pinks and yellows of the ripe fruit standing in stark contrast to their bearer. There are a handful of themes that stand out in the exhibition as symptomatic of youth. Depths of Dreams by Amy Sutcliffe is a mixed-media piece, with a fairy-tale-like, colourful, domed building standing high on a long rectangular canvas. Its foundation is a small, rocky island in the sea. Underneath the waterline, things become murkier and darker, suggesting a voyage into the unknown.

The detail of several pieces is astonishing. The Creeping Beauty by Deema Hatahet is a cheerful digital print with a woman's profile visible in a kaleidoscope of colours surrounding her face in neat lines, and dotted with emblems such as butterflies, stars and the peace motif. Equally technical is a black-and-white pen drawing by Melanie Jane Stones called World Traveller, which is an etched collage of buildings from around the world that blend into one another - from the Burj Al Arab in the middle, radiating out to the Empire State Building, Russian domes and a layered viaduct. It could serve as a metaphor for the sparky talent on show here - the world at their feet.

Sheikha Manal's Young Artist Award runs until tomorrow at the Dubai Ladies Club. The results will be announced on Tuesday (www.youngartistaward.ae).