'Dubai always inspires me': Meet the artist behind iconic 'Shadow Man'

The artist who recently presented her collection at DIFC Art Nights reflects on her diverse artistic journey and her connect with the city's art scene


Husain Rizvi

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Published: Tue 12 Mar 2024, 6:18 PM

Last updated: Wed 13 Mar 2024, 8:42 AM

Anna Chekh, a prominent Ukrainian artist celebrated for her diverse artistic expressions, shares insights into her recent endeavours and successes. From captivating audiences with her immersive art installations at DIFC Art Nights to pioneering innovative digital experiences, Chekh's journey is one of continuous exploration and creativity.

In a conversation with City Times, Anna discusses her inspiration behind iconic creations like the 'Shadow Man', her groundbreaking collaborations, and her upcoming exhibitions that promise to mesmerise global audiences. Excerpts from the interview:

Anna Chekh at her DIFC Art Nights installation
Anna Chekh at her DIFC Art Nights installation

Can you tell us about your experience presenting your art world, including pictures, art objects, digital art, and art furniture at DIFC Art Nights 2024? What was the reception like from attendees?

It was an amazing experience because I presented my entire art world which includes many directions. I created corner which I named art home at DIFC. CEOs and top management of DIFC really liked this idea - I even placed a carpet, some chairs and lamps for more cosy home vibes. Because contemporary art is not just about art objects or pictures, it’s lifestyle in general. And it was so exciting also because I presented my first furniture item – the coffee table or horse table because it’s a horse which has a plate in its mouth. This table found its owner and new home at once. And, of course, new colours from my bestseller collection “Shadow Man” were also presented at the event, with the art objects being sold immediately after.

Winning the award for the best innovative NFT collection by ftNFT is a remarkable achievement. Could you share more about the artistic application that allows people to create their own digital art using your palette and elements? What inspired you to create this platform?

My main inspiration is people. As an artist, I am always trying to find new experiences that I can create for my audience. Last summer, during one of my solo exhibitions at Dubai Mall, I decided to prepare a special interactive installation which would allow my audience to become creators for a short period. With the help of my team, I developed an application featuring a diverse palette of colourful art elements. Users could create their own digital art which they could even list as a non-fungible token (NFT). And just for the opening evening, 200 unique digital art pieces were created. This installation became a magnetic station for adults and kids.

Your inclusion in the "Artists in Focus 2024" book, presented at Art Dubai, highlights your growing prominence in the art world. What does it mean to you to be featured in this publication alongside other esteemed artists?

It means a big credit of trust and assessment. It’s a big honour to be on the same page with other well-known and popular local artists. This just motivates me to grow more and to make cool and useful projects here in the UAE.

Anna's artworks were displayed at her solo exhibition at Bluewaters Island, Dubai
Anna's artworks were displayed at her solo exhibition at Bluewaters Island, Dubai

The 'Shadow Man' character has become a recognisable figure in Dubai, and your collections featuring 'Shadow Man' are highly sought after. Can you share more about the inspiration behind this character and its significance in your art?

This is the main character in my art. In my opinion, he is an image of our generation. Because like all of us, he likes to be everywhere and explore everything around him. But at the same time, he stays in a shadow – we don’t know who he is. He is faceless, he keeps his private life, values, secrets etc with him – like his sphere which he is embracing very tightly. So I guess we are like 'Shadow Man' more or less.

How was the experience of presenting your 'Shadow Man' collection at a private event in Dubai alongside Banksy artworks? What was the response from collectors and attendees?

It was very stylish event organised by Skaya Art. I was surprised when I saw my 'Shadow Man' in the same space as Banksy's artworks. I really love Banksy and his philosophy and it’s a big honour to be displayed at the same venue. Guests at the event mentioned our art matching and that was the best compliment.

You have several exciting collaborations and exhibitions lined up, including with Etihad, a big brand in the UAE, and solo exhibitions in Bangkok and New York. Can you provide any insights into these collaborations and what audiences can expect from your upcoming exhibitions?

With Etihad, our cooperation is around their anniversary. They made their shortlist and took 20 artists onboard for their celebrations. Soon, they will present one of my biggest pictures with colourful patterns of horses. Now, I’m working on my solo exhibitions In Bangkok which will be in ArtVenture gallery in Icon Siam (it’s kind of Dubai Mall) where I will present my physical and digital art. We are also planning my exhibition in New York in Mriya gallery, probably at the end of the year.

Your new Arabic digital art looks fascinating. Could you tell us more about this project and how it might be relevant or useful for Ramadan? What inspired you to create this artwork?

Dubai always inspires me. The pace at which things are developed here, the technologies involved, and the vision of the leaders, all these things are just awesome. The city is also a very social place to build your network, but at the same time, traditions are also in place. I have a huge respect for this combination which is why my digital art is named 'Height changes, traditions remain.' At the centre of the transforming buildings, you will notice a woman in the traditional Arabic dress. This digital is the evolution of Dubai and a symbol of all traditions in one piece. I sincerely hope to inspire people who follow my work, especially during the Holy month of Ramadan.


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