'Capital residency' for US artists in UAE
Mr. Malen Pierson, Artist during Interview With Artists at Art Hub Gallery in Musaffah.
Abu Dhabi - This January, the artists in residence were Malen Pierson, Sue Averell, McKenzie Laird, Judy Reed and Wendy Hogan, all from California.
For just one month, Malen Pierson has swapped his house in California for a studio flat in Abu Dhabi's Musaffah industrial area. Now the month nearly over, he is happy about it.
"I love it! It was my first time in the UAE and so far it's been great," he told Khaleej Times.
Pierson is one of five professional US artists spending the entire January in the Capital as part of Abu Dhabi Art Hub's residency programme. An independent art gallery and community organisation, the Art Hub invites a group of artists from any part of the world to spend one month here, and create at least one artwork, which is exhibited in the Art Hub's gallery, open to the public for free.
This January, the artists in residence were Malen Pierson, Sue Averell, McKenzie Laird, Judy Reed and Wendy Hogan, all from California.
"I love cars - I have my own car collection back home - and my work is based on recycled materials, particularly recycled metal, so Musaffah suited me fine," said Pierson.
One of the metal sculptures he did while here is based on an old car hood, which Pierson found in Musaffah and believes comes from a Nissan car. "It's called 'Evolution of Transportation', from a camel to a car," he explained.
The piece shows a camel, carved out in the centre of the bonnet, which was kept "authentic", retaining the original paint and even its scratches. While explaining the camel carving technique, Pierson can't stop smiling as he formed a special bond with the UAE's most beloved quadruped.
Every weekend, the group travelled to Hameem, in the Liwa oasis, where they spend a couple of days at the Art Hub camp over there.
"At the Liwa camp I found a big pile of metal scrap, which I used for my artworks. This one here is a masque using the natural patina of a metal that was once a road sign".
The masque is part of a small series Pierson created, which he calls "Tribasal", as they are inspired partly by tribal people and partly by Picasso's style.
Most of Pierson's sculptures, which will be part of Art Hub's California Art Month exhibition, were created in Liwa. Not only that he found his working material there, but also much of the inspiration.
The camp was once the farm land of Ahmed Al Yafei, an Emirati businessman with an eye for all things beautiful.
In 2012, at the far end of Musaffah's dusty, noisy and mad with traffic streets, Al Yafei opened the Abu Dhabi Art Hub, on a piece of land he owned together with his partner. It's a large art centre with a couple of art galleries, art shop, cafe, art studios and small flats for visiting artists.
"We are an art hub that allows all types of visual art and art initiatives, using cross-cultural tools to connect and build bridges through art," explained Al Yafei.
Two years later, he decided to use his land in Hameem for the same purpose, so he transformed it into an artists' camp, where there are regular art by country exhibitions and art festivals. The camp also has tent style accommodation, decorated in traditional Emirati style, and even a large swimming pool.
None of the nearly 300 artists from at least 50 different countries who were in the residency programme failed to be impressed by Liwa.
This is where Sue Averell mostly found her inspiration too. She was also the link between three of the Californian artists and the Art Hub.
"I know Mohammed Al Sadoun, an artist who as an art instructor at UAE University in Al Ain, and also works part time in US. He came and told me about the Art Hub three times. I talked to my artist friends about it, and we came," said Averell.
Her one month experience in Abu Dhabi was beyond expectations.
"I lived among Muslims in Thailand before, but they did not want to share their traditions and I never understood their culture. Here, in Abu Dhabi, people wanted to know me and I wanted to know them. This is what inspired my work here - learning about people," explained Averell.
Her experience also led her to believe art, particularly the Western one, has a strong future here.
"I believe art is at the beginning stages here, but it is growing. Abu Dhabi is at the tip of a huge Renaissance."
The Californian Art Month exhibition, which will also include works by Iraqi artist Mohammed Al Sadoun, will open at the Art Hub today and continue until February 29.
Sue Averell with her paintings.— Photo by Nezar Balout