Mrinmay C Sebastian, Tinkerbell and Blaze

The Cartoon Art Gallery is celebrating its move to a new space in Al Quoz with an exhibition titled Show Your Best featuring artworks by more than 50 UAE-based artists. The gallery had issued an open call for artists to participate for free in the show by submitting their best work. The variety of artworks in the show highlights the diversity and creativity of the local arts community.

The gallery was the first in this region to focus on the art of cartooning and animation, and to host exhibitions featuring comic art, caricatures, cartoons, animation, and illustration. It also serves as the headquarters of the International Watercolour Society of UAE with gallery manager Mrinmay Sebastian being the head of the UAE chapter. It hosts a variety of art workshops, seminars, live demonstrations by masters and other events for children and adults throughout the year and also organises plien air painting sessions for watercolour enthusiasts.

Melvin Mathew, the owner of the gallery has a master’s in fine art in animation from the US and worked as an animator for 10 years in the US. “I wanted to create a space not just to show my own work but also to provide a friendly, affordable venue for upcoming artists to display their work, and to enhance their skills, grow and evolve. We also wanted to host workshops and exhibitions for children because learning to express themselves through art helps them to become creative thinkers, better problem solvers, and happier, more balanced human beings. Moving to this bigger space will help us to serve the arts community better,” he says.

For this inaugural exhibition, Mathew has created a series of oil paintings featuring comical characters such as a singing fish, a family of dogs and owls with human characteristics and his favourite animated character The Joker. In another painting spiders crawling over a man’s body depict the horror of missing his morning coffee.

Besides cartoons and caricatures the show features drawings and paintings in various media, digital art, photographs, collages and papercuts by established and upcoming artists of all nationalities, including many who are showcasing their work in the UAE for the first time.

Emirati engineer turned artist Khaled Al Jaberi’s humorous digital artworks convey profound observations about contemporary life. They depict how our addiction to social media is isolating us from society and reveal the reality of the fake love we receive in the virtual world. They also remind us not to wait until it is too late to tell loved ones how much we care for them and encourage us not to be satisfied with small achievements and be ambitious to continue climbing higher. Another witty work that every viewer will connect with depicts a person desperately trying to sweep away a deluge of social media messages with a broom.

Egyptian artist Mahmoud Safwat’s cartoons speak about the modern world through scenes from his own life. His skillful black and white ink drawings depict the chaos and stress around him, the endless social media messages that distract him while driving, his habit of falling asleep in front of the TV after a long day at work, and his attempts to communicate with his inner self amidst the din of urban life. “I am happy that I have found a gallery that appreciates cartoon art and has provided me with my first opportunity to exhibit my work in the UAE,” he says.

Jalal Abu Samaa’s digital and pencil caricatures offer a light-hearted tribute to famous footballers, well-known Indian leaders and Hollywood stars. The Dubai-based artist, who works as an illustrator for a Malayalam newspaper is also displaying his work in the UAE for the first time.

Another artist debuting his work here is Larry Merciales, an architect from the Philippines. He has experimented with a new technique of using metallic pen on acrylic coated canvas to create portraits of tribal women from different regions of his country, depicting every detail of the intricate tribal markings on their bodies. “I am inspired by the rich culture of my country, and happy to have this opportunity to showcase it to the multicultural audience in Dubai,” he says. Similarly, Indian artist Farah Khan’s evocative photographs of camels, boats on the Dubai creek, and traditional houses in Liwa celebrate the heritage and culture of the UAE.

The Consulate of Peru in Dubai is also participating in the exhibition by showcasing watercolour paintings by upcoming Peruvian artists that depict the landscape and culture of the country. Other interesting works in the show include Masarrat Sulaimani’s hand painted papercut creations on themes such as spreading happiness through education and letting go of the past and living in the moment to attain salvation; Fathima Renouza Makalanda’s assemblage of hand-painted pebbles; Yamini Manala’s watercolour paintings of soft toys invoking the child that resides within every adult; and Sebastian’s acrylic painting of the fairytale characters Tinkerbell and Blaze created especially for this show.

Show Your Best will run at the Cartoon Art Gallery, near Zabeel Studio, Al Quoz until September 3.