Dubai: Emirati artist says art in all forms is a language of understanding

Dubai - Hamdan Buti Al Shamsi tells us the inspiration behind his debut solo exhibition ‘Kn_bkhair’


Enid Grace Parker

Published: Wed 10 Mar 2021, 8:58 AM

Emirati artist Hamdan Buti Al Shamsi delved deep within for inspiration for his latest work, ‘Kn_bkhair’, which will be on display at the Tashkeel gallery in Dubai from March 16 to April 24. A self-taught multidisciplinary artist and writer, Hamdan focused on himself to create prints, handwritten poetry, video and an installation — all of which analyse identity, individualism and subconsciousness.

We caught up with Hamdan to talk about his first solo exhibition that is also the outcome of Tashkeel’s Critical Practice Programme 2020 — where Hamdan spent one year of research and reflection on self-representation through a variety of visual mediums, mentored by artist and curator Hind bin Demaithan Al Qemzi.

Hamdan tells City Times that ‘Kn_bkhair’, which translates to ‘be alright’ is about “the stages we go through as individuals; from the age of innocence, nostalgic memories of family and friends” to the time when you have to grow up. He explains, “That period when you start to be bullied, you start to be judged and compared to others. I sum it up as trauma that either breaks you or makes you; either you learn from it or you concede to just go with the flow. It’s the time when you have to understand yourself. Not everyone can do it. People can fall into depression that can last a very long time. It’s only when they acknowledge the impact childhood experiences have had on them do they begin to accept who they truly are.”

Art often draws on personal experiences which the creator hopes his or her audience can in some way relate to, and Hamdan calls his debut solo exhibition “an invitation for everyone to get to know themselves a bit more, to forgive, to heal and to accept who they are.”

When asked if being a multi-disclipinary artist was challenging as opposed to concentrating on one medium, Hamdan says he finds limitation “frustrating”, adding, “Some artists find it best to have a medium that you build up your art practice around, but I don’t feel I should be stuck to one medium; I like to explore different mediums such as collage, photography, printmaking and video. What is life without new discoveries and new experiments? It is what makes us grow as human beings and it’s how I grow as an artist.”

Hamdan, who is an alumnus of the Salama Emerging Artist Fellowship (SEAF) and Campus Art Dubai 1.0, has exhibited earlier at Tashkeel in group exhibitions 10 Years Later (2018), Made in Tashkeel (2011), As The Saying Goes (2011), and Portrait of a Generation (2010). He reveals he was keen on Tashkeel’s Critical Practice programme after learning more about the nurturing aspect from alumni. “I have been exhibiting my work at Tashkeel for a few years, as well as using their facilities for experimenting and creating different bodies of work. To seek further growth as a practicing artist I felt it (applying for this programme) was the right thing to do.”

As an Emirati artist how does he feel about the growth of the UAE’s cultural and art scene over the years and the support for local artists?

“Support is there, as is knowledge of the important role that art plays in building up the culture and the civilisation of the country. Not only local artists but many UAE-based artists as well have the full support of being practicing artists.”

The world is going through a tough time due to the pandemic — was his work affected by this and did it influence his art in any way? “Well, I didn’t know Covid would happen! I guess the title (of my new exhibition) will make more sense to people now. But the title originated from my writing — these notes to the self. I write when I need to work through something, when it occupies my mind and I can’t get rid of it. It’s very personal. I’ve been let down so many times by people that I came to realise I should be my own best friend. You cannot speak out about everything that bothers you. Not everyone shares the same opinion and not every question you have can be put out there. So, I have learned to love myself and know myself a little more than I used to. Sometimes you need to take time for yourself. ‘Kn_bkhair’ evolves from this.”

Hamdan admits no specific artist inspired him but he was initially influenced by the pop art movement which challenges traditional art by featuring images from popular culture. “Later on I became fond of dadaism (a European artistic and literary movement of the early 20th century) and futurism (an Italian art movement of the early 20th century).”

Art like music and other forms of creative expression is often seen as a unifying concept, something that brings people with different backgrounds and cultures together. Hamdan concluded our chat by telling us what art means to him personally. “I am not sure if I would consider it a philosophy or anything else but for me, creating art is more of expressing the self, the past and now it’s a way of healing the self and what it goes through. Art in all forms is a language of understanding, of gathering and of uniting people.”

‘Kn_bkhair’ at Tashkeel

The exhibition will run at the gallery in Nad Al Sheba 1, Dubai from March 16-April 24 and is part of Tashkeel’s 2021 Spring Season and also the gallery’s highlight show for Dubai Art Week in March/April. It opens from 10am to 10pm daily, except Fridays, and admission is free. Booking in advance is essential via email or you can call 04 336 3313. For details of the programme, the exhibition and the tours, visit

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