‘Fell in love with Dubai’: Georgian artist paints city's heritage in vibrant colours

Why Dubai is a muse for award-winning Georgian artist Toma Stenko and how it inspires her to tell the story of the city and its people through her paintings

by

Ehaab Qadeer

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Published: Tue 26 Dec 2023, 10:56 PM

Last updated: Wed 27 Dec 2023, 3:18 PM

In a captivating display of artistic brilliance, Georgian artist Toma Stenko recently unveiled her exhibition Colourful Silence, at the Jumeirah Creekside Hotel in Dubai. Inspired by the works of Claude Monet, this exhibition serves as a testament to Stenko's unwavering dedication during her residency in the vibrant city.

Seth Benzel, owner of the 8th Ave Gallery and director of the artist-in-residence programme at Jumeirah Creekside Hotel, lauded Stenko's commitment, stating, "Stenko has been the epitome of the perfect kind of artist in residence." With a focus on cultural reflection, Stenko's classics beautifully encapsulate the essence of Dubai's rich heritage.

Stenko's creations reflect not just her skill but also a deep connection to Dubai's rich culture and heritage. In the midst of the bustling metropolis, she has crafted classics that speak to the soul of the city. She expressed her love for the city, describing it as a "new world, new culture, new people, new inspiration." Dubai provided her an amazing opportunity to feel absolutely free, safe, and surrounded by gentle inspiration.

The title Colourful Silence holds significance beyond its poetic appeal. Stenko, a lover of the language of colours, believes in their ability to speak. "Colours can speak. We sometimes don’t listen to colours. But colours have amazing energy and an amazing influence for people because each colour has different stories." Her eloquent personality shines through as she discusses her journey and connection with colours, emphasising the need to close our eyes and listen to the silent narratives embedded in hues.

As a culture enthusiast, Stenko said her collection aims to tell the stories of women through different colours and emotions, akin to a mosaic. Each painting becomes a unique chapter in the collective narrative of womanhood, inviting viewers to feel the emotions and experiences portrayed on canvas. "Like a mosaic, like a mix," she adds, hinting at the complexity and diversity of these stories.

For Stenko, Dubai is more than just a backdrop; it's a wellspring of inspiration. She spent significant time exploring the old city, delving into its cultural roots to better understand its relevance. What took her by surprise was the power of Dubai's cultural impact, a force that fuelled her creativity. Stenko emphasised the city's heartbeat as an influential force, guiding her artistic expression.

Reflecting on her artistic process, Stenko said, "I just fell in love with the sculpture of the city because for me, it's a new world, new culture, new people, new inspiration. I felt absolutely free and safe; the place was so gentle and it gave me a lot of ideas and a lot of inspiration." Her words echo the sentiment of an artist who found not just a subject but a muse in the city's diverse landscapes.

This is Stenko's second visit to the UAE, and she expressed feeling a profound connection with the culture and heritage. In her eyes, the Dubai culture had chosen her, guiding her to open herself to a new world. Her art stands testimony to this connection as she moves beyond the facade of skyscrapers and wide roads to outline the exclusivity of the culture.

Stenko, however, is not merely a spectator; she is an active participant in Dubai's cultural tapestry. Her fondness for Arabian food and love for the Arabic language, which she describes as "music to my ears," reveal a genuine appreciation for the intricacies of the local lifestyle. The people of Dubai, to her, are not just residents but characters in a cinematic experience, and their friendliness has left an indelible mark on her.

Discussing her collaboration with local Emirati artist and photographer Alia Sultan Aljoker, Stenko praised Alia's passion and deep understanding of art. Their collaboration, born in the Museum of Future, stands as a testament to the city's ability to bring together artists with diverse perspectives.

Stenko emphasised that her focus on painting Arab women was a conscious choice rooted in a desire to delve deep into the culture. "For me, it was very important to try and understand why; why she looks like that; why she's wearing what she is wearing; why her hands are in a certain position like this." The mystery behind the attire, the stories untold, became a wellspring of inspiration for Stenko.

Her exploration of Dubai's cultural nuances extends beyond the canvas. Stenko finds that a simple walk, an open heart, and an attentive ear are all one needs to absorb the city's influential heartbeat. "Because when you open as an artist, the tiniest of tiny things will influence you to create artwork. As the UAE is a melting pot of culture, people here leave an influential impact."

Stenko's optimism about the opportunities for artists in Dubai is infectious. She sees a positive energy for women artists in the country, making it the best time to be part of the burgeoning art scene. She envisions Dubai as a space for diverse artists, irrespective of age, providing a platform for creative expression.

Toma Stenko's 'Colourful Silence' is not just an exhibition; it's a symphony of colours, emotions, and cultural nuances. Through her paintings, she invites us to listen to the silent stories of Dubai, to feel the heartbeat of a city that has become her muse. Her art is a celebration of the diverse, the mysterious, and the profoundly beautiful elements that make up the tapestry of Dubai's culture.

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