Salma Al Marri, The Porch Image Credit: Supplied

Alliance Française Dubai is paying homage to the UAE and the country’s enduring friendship with France by curating and hosting Sinyar, a joint exhibition by Emirati artist Salma Al Marri and French artists Claude Guénard, Claude Quentelo, Marc Petit and Patrice Palacio. Sinyar is a Khaleeji word for the departure of caravans or groups of people, and the artworks in the show reflect this idea of a shared journey. They range from paintings made with guitar strings and magnets to tapestries woven by age-old French techniques.

Guénard is a well-known painter, engraver and sculptor based in Paris. He enjoys travelling and learning about new cultures and has taught in art schools in France and Africa. He became familiar with Arab culture after spending 10 years as a professor at the University des Arts in Tunis where he established the Printing Techniques Department and organised many international art events. For this show, he has created a series of vibrant paintings inspired by the landscape of Dubai. They depict his romantic interpretation of the city’s old landmarks such as the Jumeirah Mosque, and iconic new skyscrapers as well as elements of daily life such as the boats on the creek.

“On my last visit to Dubai I wandered around the city taking hundreds of photographs of the extraordinary architecture. The city is like a museum of iconic landscapes that makes my head spin and continues to inspire me. The towers or burj’s are like elegant princesses with exotic names that bewitch me and entice me to explore this urban paradise and to keep returning in search of more artistic adventures. Maybe the next burj should be named Sinyar to convey the idea of a journey that takes you to a further and higher future and perhaps closer to god,” the artist says.

Quentelo’s paintings are also inspired by the culture, heritage and landscape of the UAE. The special element of his work is the unique technique he uses, which is an improvisation of the Japanese art of Sumi-e. While in the Japanese version artists use a fine brush or feather to create delicate paintings with Chinese ink, Quentelo has used guitar strings to apply the ink. He presses the ink dipped string on paper with firm and precise gestures to create lines and curves, painstakingly constructing abstracted images of bedouins and camels in the desert.

“My son lives in Dubai so I have been coming here regularly for the last four years. I was surprised to discover the city’s open mindedness to the rest of the world and to art, which makes it a truly international city unlike any other. People of all nationalities and backgrounds can live here together in harmony, exchange ideas and learn from each other. The city is growing rapidly but it has preserved its values and humanity and has the intelligence and the sensitivity to know how to attract the best people and to work together to create a good foundation for the future. This is what Sinyar is about — departures towards others and returning enriched by those encounters. My painting ‘The Sail Burj Al Arab’ reflects the energy of Dubai, the architectural grandeur of its buildings, and its continued connection with its heritage,” Quentelo says.

Petit, who was born in Strasbourg in 1932 has had a distinguished career as an artist. In the autumn of his life he has returned to his first love — tapestry. He has created two special tapestries for the show in collaboration with Le Ateliers Pinton weaving factory, a 150-year-old company that uses traditional French techniques to produce carpets and tapestries that are works of art.

Petit’s creations thus represent a beautiful cultural bridge between France and the UAE. A work titled, The Eye Breathes was woven from a drawing of sand dunes made by the artist during a trip to the UAE desert. “I wanted to express the feeling of freedom I felt at the sight of the immense vastness of the desert. But this work is also an invitation to daydream and to travel and discover the beauty of the UAE,” Petit says. The second tapestry, titled The Eye Sharpens is based on a more recent drawing and depicts a majestic golden falcon flying high above a stream flowing past an oasis in the desert, offering a sharp, bird’s eye view of key facets of Emirati culture.

Palacio is the co-founder of the ‘fragmental painting’ movement, which is based on the concept that since everything in our universe is in constant movement, painting should be no different. In this dynamic art form, the artist uses hundreds of magnets as abstract fragments, arranging and rearranging them on a metal panel to conjure various images right in front of the audience. For this show he has created a portrait of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai which is composed of 1800 painted and numbered fragments on a gold background.

Award winning multi-media artist Al Marri brings to the show an Emirati perspective of her country and its relationship with the world and with global art. She has assimilated influences of classic romanticism, impressionism, symbolism, realism and abstraction as well as her intimate knowledge of Arab art and culture to develop her distinct style of painting. Her artworks are steeped in nostalgia for a gentler bygone era, but they also acknowledge the struggles of modern life, and the current turmoil in the region.

Al Marri’s favourite themes include motherhood and childhood. Her emotional paintings depict her happy childhood memories of time spent with her mother and grandmother. But in other works, she has highlighted the suffering and bewilderment of people as they try to cope with a confused, conflicted contemporary world.

The artist loves to experiment with different media and materials and has used oil, watercolours, acrylic pastes and mosaic to create interesting textures and nuances in her paintings. She has used various symbols to convey her message such as the bull to represent power, endurance and perseverance in the face of hardships, and birds to signify innocence, transparency and sincere compassion.

Sinyar will run at La Galerie, Alliance Française Dubai, Oud Metha Road until January 14, 2018.