Last Updated: Mon Apr 11, 2011 11:16 am (KSA) 08:16 am (GMT)

The colors of UAEism

The art of painting: Wasel Safwan pours his soul into "My Situation."
The art of painting: Wasel Safwan pours his soul into "My Situation."

At first glance, Wasel Safwan’s art is vibrant. Jagged edges, asymmetrical patterns and swathes of aquamarine, yellows and blues, are balanced with judicious use of orange and crimson and, in a few cases, purple – all of which create spirited, optimistic artwork. It is art that enlivens spaces. Look closer and you might detect a spaceship or perhaps a tree.

Wasel Safwan

"Art was born from a respect for humanity; its colors to correspond to different tongues in different conditions at the same time." This is Wasel Safwan’s philosophy on art. A well-known artist in the Middle East, Mr. Safwan has come up with the term, UAEism. He says his theory of UAEism took shape when he wondered if there really was such a thing as the United Arab Emirates since only about 11 percent to 15 percent of the population of the UAE is Arab. Mr. Safwan states that multiculturalism is, in reality, the UAE.

UAEism also takes into account the influence of different languages on the one spoken in his home country, a language which he maintains is not pure Arabic , but a dialect. He is coy about revealing more about his what this philosophy might mean or translate into his art, saying he will discuss it further next month in his talk at TEDxAlAin.

Unconscious Happiness

Mr. Safwan grew up in Al Ain city in the Al Muajei district and studied architecture at the University of Ajman. He cites his study as a major influence in his art, adding that it has helped him create an emerging style that is clearer and sharper because it includes broken lines and his work is geometric in nature. He enjoys painting on large canvases and using sharp edges, contrasting shapes and colors. However, he doesn’t paint on canvas alone; he also enjoys painting three-dimensional objects. He says he also does figurative art but doesn’t display it often since he finds abstracts more appealing. When it comes to 3-D art, Mr. Safwan is most drawn to painting cars. He has completed three pieces: A Nissan Murano, a Ferrari Formula One racer and a 1959 Chevrolet Impala.

Mr. Wasel has lectured at United Arab Emirates University and Zayed University, among other institutions. He has participated in a number of solo and group exhibitions such as UAE Pavilion EXPO 2010 in Shanghai, the SMALT Art 2009 at Vitkovice in Czech Republic and Emirati Expressions 2009. His first exhibition piece in the Inaugural Biennale Exhibition for Fine Arts, UAE University in 2001 won him the first prize. He will speak at TEDxAlain on May 7 from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Al Ain Municipality Theatre.

(Umita Venkataraman of Al Arabiya can be reached via email at: umita.; Noora Faraj can be reached via email at:

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