On pulling up outside Tashkeel you'd be right to assume that you've taken a wrong turn. The concrete-clad exterior of this unassuming building is far removed from the creative energy that flows inside - an energy that has rippled throughout Dubai and beyond since the contemporary art organisation opened six years ago. Set up primarily to cultivate and promote visual artists in the UAE, as well as facilitate cross-culture dialogue between creative industries, Tashkeel offers a central meeting pointcum workplace for artists working across most disciplines, from urban art and photography to textiles and sculpture.
Founded in 2008 by Lateefa bint Maktoum, a member of Dubai's ruling family and notable artist, Tashkeel offers studio space, artists' residencies (local and international) and a programme of exhibitions throughout the year. It, too, houses a public gallery, library and facilities to rival most contemporary organisations in Europe: digital labs, printmaking, photography studio and darkroom, and textile printing facilities. Applauded for its support of Dubai's flourishing art scene, Tashkeel currently runs three residencies a year, along with six residencies in conjunction with its partners - such as the region's largest art fair, Art Dubai, and London's largest artist residency provider, the Delfina Foundation. Then there is the exhibition space, which can accommodate up to six main projects a year, alongside a series of small-scale events and workshops, including screenings and seminars.
An advocate of collaborative work, earlier this year Tashkeel showcased a handful of Emirati designers at the annual Design Days Dubai - the region's leading fair dedicated to collectible furniture and objects. The three artists - Latifa Saeed, Salem Al-Mansoori and Zeinab Alhashemi - developed prototypes for the exhibition, with their final pieces available to purchase at the fair (if you missed out on these three exclusive items, the designers do take commissions). From a one-of-a-kind braided chair designed by Latifa Saeed to a multi-functional sand carpet created by Zeinab Alhashemi, Tashkeel's interest for interiors is ever advancing. So much so that it has recently launched a mentorship programme with London-based PAL Labs to encourage local designers to develop a range of products that work towards defining a design, aesthetic and production process that is innately from the Emirates. Tashkeel will then showcase the work at next year's Design Days Dubai, which takes place in March 2015.
With nurturing creative talent a cornerstone to this dynamic design hub's agenda, we take a look at some of the artists to exhibit with Tashkeel:
Visual: ZEINAB ALHASHEMI
A visual artist born and based in Dubai, Alhashemi focuses on visual storytelling through experimental media and the use of new materials. Her recent project for Design Days Dubai is a case in point. Her multi-functional sand carpet, made up of geometric shapes filled with sand and stitched out of camel leather, has been designed to be used as portable seating for outdoors or as a permanent piece of furniture for the home.
Photography: MAITHA DEMITHAN
An Emirati artist born in Dubai, Maitha Demithan combines several mediums when constructing her work: photography, scanography, painting, drawing and photo transfers. She first appeared at Tashkeel in 2009, when she showcased her scanned self portraits. Since then, she has participated in the Brisbane Biennial and appeared at the UAE Pavilion during the Shanghai Expo 2010.
Contemporary: RUBEN SANCHEZ
The Spanish artist opened his B Side exhibition in Tashkeel last November. According to the artist, the B Side is "all about transforming things". It is the result of 12 months of experimentation and exploration, whereby he splashes vibrant Cubist-style faces, bodies and animals in bright pastels and primaries on discarded timber pieces.