The Gulf Today - Panorama - - Contents - by Man­jula Ra­makr­ish­nan

Tabari Artspace, Dubai is cur­rently show­cas­ing The Silk Road, a solo ex­hi­bi­tion by the Egyp­tian artist Mo­hamed Abla

Mal­iha Al Tabari is the managing director of Tabari Artspace Gallery that has been in op­er­a­tion for a decade now. Hav­ing com­pleted her grad­u­a­tion from Cal­i­for­nia and higher stud­ies from Florida, Mal­iha — a painter and sculp­tor her­self — felt the urge to pro­mote Mid­dle East­ern art both in the re­gion and abroad.

“Pas­sion is the piv­otal el­e­ment in any field and the key to suc­cess­fully work­ing with artists,’’ she ob­serves.

The cur­rent event at Tabari Artspace is an art ex­hi­bi­tion ti­tled The Silk Road, a solo ex­hi­bi­tion by Mo­hamed Abla, one of Egypt’s most noted and re­puted con­tem­po­rary artists.

“My work in this se­ries is all about nar­ra­tives and I have drawn my inspiration from my re­search into the his­tory of Silk Road and my re­cent trav­els to In­dia, Syria and Iraq. Trav­el­ling opens your eyes to the beauty around you and the world be­comes one large can­vas,’’ says Abla.

Speak­ing to Panorama about Artspace, Mal­iha sheds light on the art scene in the UAE and cues for col­lec­tors to choose right. Mo­hamed Abla re­tains the fo­cus on The Silk Route and his ex­hibits, and speaks with the pas­sion of an artist who lives and breathes his craft.

Mal­iha in con­ver­sa­tion with Panorama…

What prompted your in­ter­est in art and the de­ci­sion to open an art gallery?

Once I com­pleted my education, I re­alised I can have a voice back home to nur­ture artists, tell their stories and give them a plat­form on which to be heard. My goal has been to cre­ate great-

er aware­ness about Mid­dle East­ern art scene in­ter­na­tion­ally. When I started in 2003, there was no plat­form or place for the artists to grow and be seen. But now there is a shift seen where artists from our re­gion are recog­nised both in the East and the West, with their works be­ing show­cased at in­ter­na­tional bi­en­nales, mu­se­ums and foun­da­tions.

What are the key points for col­lec­tors to re­mem­ber while pur­chas­ing an art­work?

There are three key points to bear in mind when a young am­a­teur col­lec­tor is plan­ning to buy an art piece. First, buy a piece that you have ab­so­lutely fallen in love with. Se­condly, en­sure the artist has a cer­tain recog­nis­able style. Thirdly, in­vest in a work that will re­tain a good long-term value.

What would be your mes­sage to as­pir­ing artists in the UAE?

Never com­pare your­self to any­one else; be true to your­self; ad­dress crit­i­cism in a pos­i­tive way and try to learn from mis­takes. Above all, stay com­mit­ted and fo­cused on what you be­lieve in.

What are fu­ture plans in the gallery’s cal­en­dar?

I rep­re­sent two well­known lux­ury pub­lish­ers in this re­gion: Taschen and As­souline, who are forces to reckon with in the art arena. They are the lead­ing pub­lish­ers for some amaz­ing art cof­fee ta­ble books. I just launched an art plat­form called Al­ter­na­tive

Space, which is a story telling plat­form that serves clients through con­sul­tancy.

Mo­hamed Abla speaks about The Silk Road…

What is The Silk Road’ all about and can you ex­plain the choice of this ti­tle?

Silk Road in­cludes a se­lec­tion of ab­stract art­works which syn­the­sise cal­lig­ra­phy, col­lage and tra­di­tional Mid­dle East­ern tech­niques. Be­sides, it ex­plores folk­tales from North Africa, the Le­vant, Cen­tral Asia and the In­dian sub­con­ti­nent.

How would you best de­scribe your art tech­nique?

For The Silk Road se­ries, I have used the Turk­ish Ebru tech­nique (pa­per mar­bling), which is the act of float­ing pa­per in a tray filled with wa­ter and oil paint. The paint is then care­fully trans­ferred to the sur­face of pa­per to cre­ate colour­ful mar­ble­like pat­terns. From the var­i­ous dyed pa­pers, I cut out shapes, ar­rang­ing them into com­po­si­tions re­sem­bling an­i­mals, he­roes, princesses and other folk­tale fig­ures and imag­ined scenes de­rived from the an­cient Silk Road net­work.

What is your favourite medium?

I do not stick to one medium for I like ex­plor­ing dif­fer­ent tech­niques. Be­sides, I of­ten use a com­bi­na­tion of my own col­lages, com­bin­ing them with colours, cal­lig­ra­phy and dif­fer­ent el­e­ments.

Among the cur­rent ex­hibits, which one sends across an im­pact­ing mes­sage?

The piece that de­picts a girl in the gar­den has di­verse el­e­ments in it. It cre­ates a vis­ual scene, imag­i­nary char­ac­ters and there is a story lurk­ing in there for each to give his or her own con­no­ta­tion to it.

Mo­hamed Abla, one of Egypt’s most re­puted con­tem­po­rary artists.

The Silk Road ex­hibits ex­plore folk­tales from North Africa, the Le­vant, Cen­tral Asia and the In­dian sub­con­ti­nent.

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