x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Let yourself go

Art, music, movies and cooking classes greet the end of summer and the coming of the fall season.

Ian Brown will perform at Dubai Sound City
Ian Brown will perform at Dubai Sound City

It seems mighty appropriate, post-Ramadan, that the theme this week should be about releasing and indulging oneself, both metaphorically and physically. And here, to kick things off splendidly, is Dubai's XVA Gallery, with the opening of an exhibition by the American artist Nelda Gilliam. Gilliam is no stranger to the Middle Eastern art scene, or rather the burgeoning scene is no stranger to her. She spent part of her childhood in Saudi Arabia and has lived in the UAE for 11 years, in that time regularly exhibiting in Saudi Arabia and here, at the XVA and the Bastikiya Art Fair in the three years since its inception. She is also a director of Gallery 76, the space at the Dubai International Art Centre which gives a voice to upcoming Emirati artists. Gilliam's latest exhibition is a double-header, entitled Unspoken Marks, Unspoken Words, and composed of painted canvases.

The theme concerns itself with communication and expressing hidden feelings. "We hold back, both emotionally and spiritually. Perhaps this is a continuation from our childhoods, when we were often told not to speak," Gilliam says of the Words Unspoken segment of the exhibition. Through her large and abstract canvases, she aims to convey the idea that people should be freer with their thoughts. The other half of the show, Unspoken Marks, is more personal but similarly expressive, with marks on the canvas according to Gilliam's mood - whether one of fear, spontaneity or utter calm. "These canvases represent a portrait of my emotions," she explains.

But of course, release can come in myriad shapes and forms. For those looking for a more participative, louder experience than one might find in the average art gallery, it's worth booking newly released tickets for Dubai Sound City before they sell out. The pre-party acts at the beginning of October, Ian Brown and Dirty Vegas, have been loudly cheered already. A month later comes a musical line-up to rival other such events the world over. Human League, Ocean Colour Scene, Doves, Happy Mondays, Echo and the Bunnymen, Super Furry Animals, Kissy Sell Out. The list is near endless.

It's an offshoot of Liverpool Sound City, which explains the several Scouse acts among the throng. The festival director there, Dave Pichilingi, is positively humming with anticipation about bringing the gig to the UAE. "If you think back 40 years, why did they put international music festival MIDEM in Cannes? Was it because the music business was there? No, it was because Cannes was such a beautiful place to go. Today Dubai is the place to go," he told a Liverpool newspaper enthusiastically after the announcement. We like him already.

Physical nourishment is there for the taking this week, too. It is the middle of porcini season, that earthy wild mushroom found in various regions of Italy. To celebrate, Carluccios is holding a cooking session on Saturday at its restaurant in Dubai Mall. Under the watchful eye of the chef Giulio Brignola, amateurs will be whipping up wild mushroom risotto, polenta with mushroom ragout and pappardelle with, that's right, porcini. Do you spot a theme here?

Finally, indulgence of another kind can be found in the big film opening of the week with The Ugly Truth, starring Knocked Up's Katherine Heigl. True to form with most romantic comedies, it has been criticised for being directed by a man - Robert Luketic, who was also responsible for the first Legally Blonde film and, less happily, Monster-in-Law. And, yes, The Ugly Truth follows the tried-and-tested formula for pulling women into the cinema: boy and girl thrown together, boy and girl hate each other, boy and girl warm to each other. Still, sometimes that and a large bucket of popcorn are all you need.