Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Emirates through the Eyes of an Artist by Trevor Waugh

British artist Trevor Waugh always takes a journal or sketchbook with him when he travels and this book is a collection of the paintings and sketches from his visit to the United Arab Emirates.

In the introduction Waugh says that his journals are “a visual journey, they can be fact or fiction or both. Emotional and objective.” The paintings in this collection have captions that are reproduced in his handwriting, emphasizing the way this book is a ‘visual diary’. These journal jottings are pithy yet poetic, personal, full of feeling and often humorous. One caption reads this way: “To capture the moment, every so often, when the light illumines the scene and renders it timeless. I felt it here!”

Trevor Waugh is enchanted by the light of the United Arab Emirates and admits that “there is something about the landscape and the light here, it speaks to me—ageless and inspirational.” In a skilful way Waugh captures the light in his paintings from the reflections from glassy skyscrapers to the glow of a dishdasha, the Emirates Palace Hotel lit up at night, the sparkling sun on the Dubai spice souk, the pink colors of a camel caravan at sunset and the creamy fusion of sands, fortresses and paving stones.

This British painter believes that photographs don’t do most scenes justice and Waugh’s colors are what make his water colored paintings spectacular. Painting the Emirates gives artists a thorough going workout for in one painting alone Waugh has used Cobalt Blue, Ultramarine, Burnt Sienna, Raw Sienna and Alizann Crimson.

If you can’t visit the Emirates and experience its essence first-hand then savoring the pictures and the text of this book is the next best thing. Waugh has painted a range of scenes from most of the seven Emirates. Without it becoming a cheap souvenir book, ‘The Emirates through the Eyes of an Artist’ captures so many of the scenes that one will want to keep and cherish. These include paintings of Emiratis on a beach, bougainvilleas and old pots, Afghani carpet traders at the souk, the bumpy formation of stripy-blanketed camels, the majestic Hajars, women with their distinctive Bedouin burqas, abras (boats) on the Dubai Creek, Muslim men walking to prayers and also in their favorite position—sitting, dhows on the briny and the iconic Burj al Arab but in this scene, set beyond the bathers on the Jumeirah Beach. There is a good balance between scenes of the modern burgeoning Emirati cities and the views of fishing boats, fortresses and watchtowers which recall a bygone age.

The eye of the painter is no more evident than in one scene of a stately mosque with mangroves in the foreground and Waugh’s delightful caption, “Mosques and mangroves. Sometimes all that is required of a painting is a sense of peace.”

Trevor Waugh, The Emirates through the Eyes of an Artist (Dubai: Motivate Publishing, 2006). This book is available from Magrudy’s Bookshops in the UAE at a cost of Dh 145.00.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: Front cover of The Emirates through the Eyes of an Artist.