x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Street artist Ruben Sanchez hopes to brighten up Dubai's cityscape

Ruben Sanchez, the resident artist at Tashkeel is teaching a series of graffiti workshops and planting seeds of creativity. Anna Seaman reports

Ruben Sanchez (wearing a cap) leads a graffiti workshop at Tashkeel in Dubai's Nad al Sheba district. Courtesy Ruben Sanchez / Tashkeel
Ruben Sanchez (wearing a cap) leads a graffiti workshop at Tashkeel in Dubai's Nad al Sheba district. Courtesy Ruben Sanchez / Tashkeel

For someone like the street artist Ruben Sanchez, who sees the world in colour, the UAE's cityscapes seem a little dull. The Spaniard, who is currently on a year's residency at Tashkeel art centre in Dubai, says that if there is one thing he would like to do, it is brighten the city up. "My challenge is to put some colour on the streets of Dubai," he says, "but in a legal way. I want to paint big things here."

Graffiti art

In Barcelona, where Sanchez lives, gangs of young graffiti writers armed with spray cans spend hours every night traversing the city in an artistic competition to paint their name or symbol (a process known as tagging) in the hardest-to-reach spots.

Whether the results of this are art or vandalism is a debate. In many cities, including in the UAE, defacing public property is illegal. But Sanchez explains the difference between graffiti writing and street art, saying the latter is a much more creative process that doesn't need to be done under the cover of darkness.

This is one of the lessons he taught students who came to Tashkeel for a two-week workshop last month. He also took them through the history of graffiti and its cultural importance. For those who missed it or are interested in taking their art further, Sanchez will host another class on the subject - as well as lessons in customising a skateboard and using stencils - at Tashkeel's summer camp.

"Graffiti is happening all over the world and it is good to know about it as another form of art. In my classes, I give people an idea and they choose the path it will take."

Arcadia Blank

At the moment, there is only one graffiti artist who has really managed to make an impact on the UAE scene - he or she goes by the name Arcadia Blank. Sanchez says such contributions to street art are important.

"I use spray paint and although I started with graffiti writing, I turned to street art in the 1990s when I moved from Madrid to Barcelona. I was inspired by the creativity there; why do you have to be focused on drawing your name when you have a whole world out there?"

A different view

When Sanchez sees the alleyways of Satwa or old buildings in Deira, he sees opportunity. And through his teaching sessions, he hopes to plant the seeds of creativity in his students. "I don't want people to do anything illegal but I hope to pass on inspiration. It would be cool if someone hosted a mural festival or was encouraged to start more urban art projects," he says.

Sanchez is in the process of acquiring permission from the municipality to paint a building on Jumeirah Beach Road, after the owner saw his proposal and loved the idea. "I have a few things on my mind. I hope at least one of them works out," he says.


• Tashkeel Summer Camp runs from June 30 to July 11. Call 04 336 3313 or visit www.tashkeel.org


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