Dubai: More than 100 canvases by a Zambian artist who can neither hear nor talk, an oud and incense stick masterpiece by a visually impaired Arab, and oil paints on etched glass created by a retired American architect. These are the special tributes to the UAE leaders, pouring in ahead of the 47th UAE National Day.
While Zambian painter Victor Sitali’s vast repertoire of portraits of different UAE Rulers will be featured in three separate exhibitions in Dubai starting December 1, Arab artist Abdul Rahman Al Hamoud’s oud and incense portrait of the UAE’s founder Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan will be displayed at City Walk on December 2. Most of the works of American architect Mike Arnold, 66, who started painting only five years ago, already adorn the walls of some high offices and a five-star hotel in Downtown Dubai.
Sitali, who communicated with Gulf News by keying in his responses on an iPad with Arnold as his interpreter, wrote: “I have not only painted canvas portraits of the royals, I have also done many ink, pencil and charcoal sketches. I studied at Mawaheb from Beautiful People art studio and they encouraged me to do this work in the Year of Zayed. I have tried to capture the spirit and energy of the great visionaries.”
Wemmy de Maaker, founder of Mawaheb, the art studio for adults with special needs, said Sitali is hugely talented, despite losing his speech and hearing abilities at age three. “Having discovered his talent at a young age, we sent him to England a couple of times to be trained in art. He is an amazing artist and young man.”
Arnold said he and Sitali were mentored by Trevor Waugh, the acclaimed British artist based in Wiltshire, UK. “The style that we employ is Alla Prima, a technique in which wet paint is applied to previous layers of wet paint. Each brush stroke can be clearly seen as the paint is not blended on the canvas or glass.”
Talking about his on oil paints on glass, which command a huge premium, Arnold said: “The portraits on glass were initially intended to be hung on screens with light streaming in from both sides. So what happens is that the look of the portrait changes at different times of the day, depending on the light.”
He added:” “The pieces I do are not complete portraits. The idea is to engage the viewer with the portrait and fill in the gaps.”
Meanwhile, Kuwaiti artist Abdul Rahman was commissioned to do the oud and incense artwork by a perfume company in City Walk. The Saray Perfume Company said it had dedicated the portrait made with the best and rarest of incense woods as a tribute to Shaikh Zayed. Saeed Al Qurashi, team leader at Saray Perfumes, said: “This is a tribute from Saray to commemorate the Year of Zayed. We chose Kuwaiti artist Abdul Rahman to make the portrait to celebrate his ability in overcoming his impairment and achieving something great.”
The portrait will be unveiled in City Walk’s main piazza, across from Roxy Cinemas, on December 2.