The Dubai Community Theatre and Arts Centre plays hosts to a group of local student artists. Rania Moussly pays them a visit.

A106, a collective of eight emerging local artists, is holding their first solo exhibition at the Dubai Community Theatre and Arts Centre (DUCTAC). Titled 'Don't feed the artists', the exhibition has brought together their most outstanding pieces. It will run until February 3.

The artists

Made up of seven American University in Dubai (AUD) students and graduates who have grown up in Dubai, A106 is named after the photography classroom in which they developed their talents and concocted their dreams. "That classroom had a lot of drama... . It wasn't just a class, it was more like therapy," said Hazem Mahdi, an A106 member.

A106 is more like a family than a group of friends, members said. "We critique each other very honestly to maintain a certain standard for our work," said Cima Azzam.

Their outfit consists of Altamash Urooj, Hazem Mahdi, Walid Aktouf, Angelica Yassine, Mona Ayyash, Cima Azzam, Nadia Hamidi and Ayah Odeh —the guest artist.

Their exhibition is a blend of photography, sculptures and (video) instalations. Visual arts and special projects manager at DUCTAC Fatima Mohi Al Deen discovered Urooj at Pecha-Kucha, an art event held last year at AUD. He was initially invited for a solo exhibition in an attempt to nurture local art, but it was decided to include the rest of the crew, giving A106 a chance to present their work.

The art

Urooj, 24, a bachelor of fine arts graduate, is exhibiting three photographs representing the "collective consciousness of humanity" because "no matter who you are we are all interconnected in some way," said Urooj.

The piece is part of a project that Urooj started over three years ago. It began with the exploration of the concept of isolation and how human beings feel when they just want to be alone. His piece is intended to excite people, "to make them stop and think and most importantly to question," said Urooj.

He finds inspiration through experimentation. "I find it important to have new experiences... the other day I ended up randomly walking a Japanese journalist around Dubai which was very different, yet inspiring," he said.

Mahdi, 22, a photography graduate created a video instalation called 'Up in the Attic'. It represents memory and the way in which the mind works. The piece is stacked boxes with screens inside showing videos to signify the process of remembering and how we do it.

"This is a very personal project for me… there is nothing beautiful about it, but it is real and I needed to get it out of my system," said Mahdi.

Mona Ayyash, 21, a photography student, is mainly interested in portraiture and is exhibiting 'Women'. A collection of portraits of older women, it explores the stereotype that older women are perceived as "no longer a threat to society," said Ayyash.

"I love portraiture and for my senior project I needed a theme so I chose women… I've learnt so much, mainly how not to scare people while taking their picture," Ayyash said.

Cima Azzam, 22, a studio arts student, enjoys working with gypsum. She has on display a series of sculptures of human body parts in various positions. "I've taken away parts to intentionally have something missing and create the feeling of absence," she said. Her project began during an introverted struggle as an expression of her sadness, and as she worked it became bigger, changing into a creative study of the human form.

Nadia Hamidi, 21, a photography student, is exhibiting a series of photographs on the concept of "depersonalisation". "Photography is how I express my feelings… these pictures represent what it feels like to be detached from reality, like when you zone out. When your body is doing one thing, but your mind wants to do another," said Hamidi.

Her piece explores the fine line between fantasy and reality. "I find myself constantly contemplating the meaning and purpose of things and attempt to relay that in my art as a way of relating to people," she said.

Ayah Odeh, 23, a visual communications student, is the guest artist who created an instalation that consists of a playhouse and a character called 'Yoya' made from fabric and sponge. Yoya is pink and round with yellow pigtails, representing the little girl in Odeh as well as the inner child within us all.

"People think if they act childish at times, it is a sin, but it is important because in a place like Dubai where everyone is so rushed and busy, getting in touch with your inner child can bring back your passion for life," she said.

The art scene

Notes spoke to Angelica Yassine, 21, a visual communications student and freelance photographer, about the booming art scene in Dubai.

She said: "It has picked up a lot in the last few years giving artists the opportunity to network, bringing such a multicultural community together through creativity and various forms of expression."

Angelica would like to see the art scene grow at a fast pace as it has the potential and the local talent. Yet being a multi-cultural society imposes certain constraints on artists, she said, as "we must be careful not to offend any of the many different cultures present here".

Another challenge is lack of public support. "As local artists we don't get much exposure and we need public support because right now there is a lack of encouragement," said Angelica.

Fatima Mohi Al Deen, DUCTAC visual arts and special projects manager, said: "Art is a sub-culture that arises out of what already exists in a city. Unfortunately artists coming into the Dubai art scene from outside are given more attention than local artists, which is not only a shame, but patronising to extremely talented local artists already living here. What we have tried to initiate is a means and a venue for not only these artists but all local talent to represent themselves to the art community."