Art Talk


by Sandy Brand

What a “win-win” thing to do! Emaar International, a huge development company in Dubai, decided to host the Emaar International Art Symposium. They would select artists from different countries to come and create work for them, pay all the expenses involved, and keep the work produced for their amazing buildings! (Are you listening Canada?)

The artist’s had their transportation costs from every part of the world covered; a private room in a lovely hotel, all meals, all the art-making materials they wanted, a studio, helpers (to move anything or bring you anything), a generous amount of “pocket money”, and lots of extras! The biggest for me being the interaction with all the other artist ... and a camel ride!

I was honored to have been selected as the painter to represent Canada in Dubai in 2005. The United Arab Emirates are such progressive forward thinking people. They selected 20 painters and 30 sculptors in 2005, and I was Canada’s painter!! Interestingly, most of the paintings we all created were abstract, impressionistic, or expressionist. There were no realists amongst us.

I’d never been in the Middle East, and I draw everywhere I go, so differently shaped buildings and doorways appeared in my sketch pad. Their architecture sang. The people were great to draw, some in business suits, but most in their traditional eastern robes and headpieces. Many of the women wore their black burka with only their eyes showing, but they had painted finger nails and were constantly talking on cell phones!

The juxtaposition of the old city alongside this new emerging city surrounded by desert intrigued me. And somehow Dubai itself felt “blue”. The city is surrounded by blue’s compliment, orangey red hills of sand that stretch further than the eye can see.

My first morning painting was strange. I kept wondering if my work would be good enough; after all, wasn’t I in the midst of the top painters in the world? Why had they picked me? OK, my web site, but why? I kept glancing at other people’s work to see how they were doing. I repainted my canvas so many times! It was hard to paint with people around me after being used to being on my own in the quiet of my own studio. They wanted us to work from about 9.30 till 4.30, and none of were used to that either. We got so tired. After a few of days together, when we felt more comfortable talking, we laughed and admitted that most of us had felt just like that, which was great to find out! We began to take rests and go and chat to each other during the day which helped a lot.

I’ve always felt like I am painting a visual autobiography, so my paintings became very textured, full of modeling paste and actual sand from the dessert, contrasted by being beside raw canvas with thin acrylic washes on it They became rich, and full of blues, sand colors and gold.

Some of the artists had tried to go on a tour of the Burj al Arab Hotel, (the big sail shaped one!), and found they had to pay $45 to see it - so they declined, but were talking to one of our “organizers’ about it.

So one morning, instead of our private bus taking us to our studio, they sprung a tour on us. Dressed in our painty white lab coats that they’d given us, with painty shoes below, we were taken on an opulent tour! Gold was inlaid into everything, fountains were everywhere, an atrium soared to the top of the building, and it was blues too!! We toured a suite that cost a mere $7,000. a night! One (of several), of the bathrooms in it was the size of half my home. It was almost too much.

Living with people from all over the world and trying to communicate with so many different languages was awesome.

All the artists grew very close in that short time, and we all spoke the language of art. We shared similar hopes, fears and dreams. We talked about techniques, ideas, galleries and projects - I learned so much and I am so grateful for the opportunity to have taken part in this Symposium. As I watched us all work I knew I belonged, and found it validated my work.

I still e-mail several of the artists regularly and we keep showing each other what’s happening in our work and how we are feeling; letting each other know about events and shows. I am so lucky to have such a world-wide network of artist friends.

I am a spiritual creature with a very optimistic attitude. I have accomplished a lot in this short life span, and if I died tomorrow, would regret nothing – it has all made me who I am today. My visual autobiography is far from over.

Sandy Brand

Sandy Brand is an established Toronto artist.
You can view her portfolio by clicking here.