Bright lights, dream city

Published: January 5, 2014
Artist Zahra Jewanjee showcases the ever-evolving Dubai in her work and we are spellbound.

Artist Zahra Jewanjee showcases the ever-evolving Dubai in her work and we are spellbound.


The city of Dubai is analogous with a genie lamp — it’s magical and it can make your dreams come true. It is the home of aspirants, who it promises a better life, more opportunities and surprises.

With skyscrapers as high as the hopes of its people, it’s a perfect canvas for any artist  and Zahra Jewanjee acknowledges that.

In her recent work, which is titled ‘The Promised Land’, she focuses on Dubai’s construction sites and the geometry of the city. “I enjoy working with patterns and this collection is all about the present state of Dubai,” says Jewanjee.

Jewanjee is a graduate of the National College of Arts, Lahore, and is currently based in Dubai. Her work, which is being showcased at the Saeed Akhtar Studio in Lahore, depicts the ever-evolving Dubai.

It shows places in the city that are presently being constructed with an armature of hope and uncertainty. She makes use of wallpaper and other architectural elements to reflect on the fabric of the structure itself.

The collection drafts a geometric plane that defies order and describes this intangible idea with a commonplace vocabulary. “Constructions sites are transitory from one phase to another and they portray uncertainty.”

Although her focus remains on Dubai, Jewanjee tries to comment on the uncertainty and excitement that accompany something new, be it a building or a piece of art. Creating something without knowing its outcome may cause anxiety, but it also comes with hope and Jewanjee beautifully captures this idea in her work.

The photographs have been treated with gold foil, acrylics and ink to create a spectacular visual effect. “Wallpaper is used to conceal what already exists,” says Usman Saeed, who is the curator of the exhibition. “It can conceal an identity and symbolises that all is not what it seems to the naked eye,” he adds.

Her use of a genie lamp in one of the works is interesting for two reasons: one, because it symbolises Arabian Nights tales; and two, because it highlights the fact that in the midst of chaos and the fast-paced life of Dubai, there is constant hope and inspiration.

The venue is primarily a studio and museum for artist Saeed Akhtar’s own work, but it also offers space for exhibits and shows of other artists. “My father is all for encouraging new artists and new technology,” says Saeed regarding Akhtar. “His own work is traditional and he sees his talent immersed in portraits, but he greatly appreciates all sorts of art. Hence, we have created  a space to accommodate newe artists.”

Zahra Jewanjee’s exhibit will be on till January 11, 2014. The work is priced between Rs10,000 and Rs40,000.

We say, you give her ‘promised land’ a visit.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 6th, 2014.

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Reader Comments (2)

  • Shahrukh kazmi
    Jan 6, 2014 - 4:56PM

    Amazing concept and composition!


  • James
    Jan 6, 2014 - 8:32PM

    Well done Zahra, They look amazing


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