Dubai: Like many expats, visa issues were always at the back of the mind of Indian watercolourist Atul Panase, a fulltime painter who has been working for himself in the UAE for the past 25 years.
A nod from Dubai officials in June changed all that – his application for a ten-year UAE Golden Residency was approved. Now the 55-year-old artist can focus fully on his work, at his own pace and terms. The UAE is granting the special long-term visa to many residents and overseas applicants, including creative professionals.
“This Golden Visa is a blessing for artists like me because there’s no shortcut in art. Sometimes art takes years, so you need that peace of mind; you need that feeling that ‘I have time, I have a proper visa as a guarantee of stay in the country’,” said Panase, who is from India’s Chhattisgarh state.
Normally, a residency work visa needs a sponsor (usually an employer) and the visa has to be renewed every two years. For self-made artists like Panase, the arrangement can be less-than-ideal as they often work on their pace and projects, without being tied to a particular employer or company.
‘Art is my oxygen’
Dubai-based Panase said the self-sponsor Golden Visa has given him much-needed independence and flexibility to continue working and living in the UAE. He had started his career in India, drawing cartoons that were published in over two dozen publications. Panase had initially wanted to become a musician. “That didn’t happen, and I became an artist. I have always loved art; I can’t do anything else. Art is like oxygen for me.”
Man of many hats
Around 25 years ago, Panase moved to the UAE, where he paints, and also leads a UAE representation of painters in international contests and events. Panase is also a curator and has curated ‘Art Dubai’ in 2017 and 2018. He also organises community art initiatives, including one in 2020 in which Work-From-Home residents in the UAE and six other countries created artwork based on photos published in newspapers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Panase is fond of photography as well (he was the winner of Nikon Photography Award in 2002) and is an experienced graphic designer.
Nowadays, Panase is busy with curations and exhibitions related to the upcoming Indian Independence Day celebrations in August and a series of other activities.