Dubai: If it had to be a world personality, most Emirati artists would choose a iconic UAE or regional figure as the subject of their artwork, but not Abdul Rauf Khalfan.
The 35-year-old Emirati is not only different in his approach by choosing to complete a portrait of British monarch Queen Elizabeth II in time for her birthday on April 21, but he’s also unique with his materials.
This three-metre by two-metre creation is not a painting, but rather a yellow garden hose cut into lengths screwed onto a backboard and again carved out with a knife and a drill to reveal the hose’s black interior and ultimately the image of the queen.
It took the banker eight months to create this freehand without the use of projectors or outlines traced onto the pipes, but just through walking back and forth until he was fully satisfied with his masterpiece.
“If a Shaikh sees this he will be happy because I started with the [British] Queen, they are always together at the racing and we love and respect her, everybody knows her and she is a legendary figure,” said the Al Barsha resident, who now plans the same technique to portray Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and other iconic world figures, as well as the UAE’s leaders — first though he has to go back to the hardware store to get more Dh100 hose pipes.
“I love my Rulers too, and I would have loved to have started with the UAE President [His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan], but I wanted to raise my country up by appealing to other nations first, now I will go on to create Shaikhs and UAE leaders.”
Which brings us to the other obvious question. Why hose pipes?
“It just came to me from Allah,” he said. “When I sit and look at things I don’t see them for their purpose, but what they could be.
“It’s also important that that no one has ever done this before. I respect and admire other artists but I’m not inspired by them, that’s not my style, I don’t think it’s the right thing to do. If you get inspired by people too much you may just end up copying them. I think as an artist it’s important to just be unique and creative.”
Khalfan’s end goal is to get his creations showcased in a gallery, and with the Queen’s image in particular he was hoping to get it in the QE2 cruise ship, which is now a hotel docked permanently at Port Rashid, or in the British Embassy, in time for her birthday celebrations on Sunday, when she will be turning 93. He’s also never been to the UK, but would be just as keen to see his work showcased in London, perhaps in front of Queen Elizabeth herself.
“Working in a bank is blocking me,” bemoaned Khalfan, who hasn’t thought about how much he wants to sell his artwork for.
“I don’t want my job to block me. People in banks want to become CEOs or managers, but that isn’t my style, I want to make history and die with a name, to be a creative person and do something no one else has ever done before.
“If I get an opportunity with a gallery I’ll resign and walk and continue with my art, then it won’t take me eight months to finish these artworks, I’ll do them in one or two months.”