Dubai: There is something magical about it. What you see in front of you is a physical form of a painting, but when you go through an app on your mobile phone, a video shows the painting transform into multiple artistic elements — a splash of colours, moving objects, animation and graphics.
What is more interesting is the fact that you can see both the static painting and the motion video at the same time, unlike a QR Code that takes you to a webpage to show what is embedded in the code.
Welcome to the world of NFT (Non-Fungible Token) art. Augmented Reality (AR) is revolutionising paintings — thanks to artist Petra Kaltenbach, 60, who is transforming Dubai’s art scene.
To see the transformation of some of the paintings from Kaltenbach’s latest hybrid art series called ‘NFT_LOVE LETTERS’ featured in this report, readers can download the free app, Artivive, and scan the paintings through the app. Working with cutting-edge technology since 2015, Kaltenbach says she always loved to go into three-dimensionality, initially with thick paint application and later with the help of the UV-print technology.
Obsessed with ‘transformation’
The award-winning artist and curator from Germany with expertise in graphic designing and video art moved to Dubai in 2004 with two decades of experience in running an advertising agency back home.
“That was the time the transforming period of this city had begun. This process from the old into the new inspired me for my core theme “transformation,” Kaltenbach said in an exclusive interview with Gulf News.
“I experienced the special magic of the UAE. The authentic inner transformation allows humans to step out of the restricted psychological conditioning and mental structures and into the freedom, expansiveness and peace of Nature. This huge process got me to look out for a unique and lovable symbol that could help me to project my transformative thoughts on it: A pomegranate. This divine fruit is a symbol of health, wealth, fertility and love — all great forces to transform.”
Kaltenbach has come up with a series of artworks centered around ‘Pomegranate’.
Since 2015, she has dedicated herself full time to art, often intertwining her paintings with embedded technology such as QR codes. It was more recently that she joined the NFT art bandwagon.
“Most of my works of art are ‘hybrid’ — a mixture of painting and digital creations. I either print my digital files on my paintings and/or combine my art-videos via QR code or via augmented reality (AR) with my physical works. My artworks are all multilayered, which leads into the uniqueness of my work. Even in my videos, I create a complete new visual language by combining different video sources (parts of my paintings, animation, filming) into a new context to express my idea about the theme,” she explained.
Best UAE-resident artist
In 2016, Petra was shortlisted by the International Emerging Artist Award — IEAA. In 2018, her video art was accepted to be shown on the facade of Burj Khalifa. That same year, she was awarded the title of the best UAE-resident artist at World Art Dubai. She was also sponsored by Canon, who gave her a year-long sponsorship due to her work with their UV printing technology. Since 2019, Kaltenbach has been part of the curatorial team at World Art Dubai, one of the biggest art fairs in the Middle East.
Growth of art
A witness to the growth of the art scene in Dubai since 2004, Kaltenbach said: “In the beginning, I worked with other artists in small groups and also offered workshops. As the art scene grew, there were of course more opportunities to actively participate in it. After I was awarded the Best UAE Resident Art Award by World Art Dubai, I became part of the curatorial team of World Art Dubai. Meanwhile, we tripled the art-fair. This is now the largest art fair in the Middle East.”
As a curator, Kaltenbach has been constantly bringing in new technologies, perspectives and material with her body of artwork. “I am tech-savvy and an explorer. So, at the moment, I am working with a combination of physical art and matching video art. When the physical artworks are scanned with an augmented reality app (Artivive App), the accompanying art video immediately plays. The video is available as NFT, together with the physical work or on its own.”
World Art Dubai’s new digital section this year hosted new NFT galleries and Kaltenbach’s NFT_LOVE LETTERS series was shown there.
Kaltenbach is also curating the Emerging Artist Prize — a cooperation between Rove Hotels and World Art Dubai. “As I was missing a lot of competition opportunities in the beginning, I’m now keen to help upcoming artists to grow — either through competitions like this or by consulting them as well.”
How Dubai is supporting artists
A recipient of Dubai’s ten-year cultural visa, Kaltenbach said: “Through the ten-year cultural visa, Dubai recognises artists in a very special way. I see it not only as a recognition of my personal achievement, but of course also as an invitation to stay in the UAE for a long time. It is a wonderful feeling to be wanted by your host country.”
She observed that Dubai’s art scene was fast recovering and expanding even more after the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Now it seems to be getting even better than before COVID. The gallery scene has always been very small. Now, I am happy that more and more galleries are opening and that art management companies are suddenly coming up, because the local art scene is getting more and more recognition. I truly feel that a society can’t survive without art, because it is their soul and it seems Dubai is ready to live that now.”