Several delicately painted pink-hued rose petals illuminate a sombre backdrop. Like the flames of a fire, this group of roses expressionistically painted in a way that resembles the waves of a stormy sea, warms the space and compels the viewer to revel in their mystery and beauty. This is the first work in Scent of a Rose, a series of five acrylic on canvas paintings by Sheikha Maytha Bint Obaid Al Maktoum executed in 2003. The artist’s rendering of the metaphorical journey and life of the exquisite flower is made through strong tonal contrasts between light and dark. In such a manner she visualises not only the physical shape of the rose but also its alluring scent. From inception to bloom, the artist’s first solo exhibition traces the journey of the mesmerising flower, outlining its natural evolution through light, colour, and its eternally delicate form.
Curated by Sheikha Maytha, the exhibition will reveal each painting one by one through a specially-erected installation space at Al Majlis Ballroom in Mina a’ Salaam at Madinat Jumeirah. “Real art is not just a technique, for it to be true it must be honest and from the heart,” says Sheikha Maytha who has developed her exquisite collection of artworks over the last 15 years. Having studied at Dubai’s Women College, Sheikha Maytha subsequently pursued her formal art training through multiple courses and workshops. It was during this time that she learned of the infinite effects of light as well as developed a deep love for symbolism – a signature trait of her oeuvre. Until this week, Sheikha Maytha’s art has only been viewed by friends and family.
Each intimate viewing of Scent of a Rose will allow guests to revel in the genuine warmth and artistry with which the artist has endowed each painting. The series begins with the innocently resting rose, its sumptuous petals coloured in rich hues of red, purple and yellow that offer light, depth and texture to the scene. Here the scent is just beginning to be made. The rose is then revealed in full bloom in the second work which bursts before us in a bath of light, colour and scent. Poignant oranges and yellows pour out from the canvas in a powerful and exuberant vision. Here the aura of colour exudes the full effect of the rose’s scent represented through a flood of light. In the next three works, the viewer beholds how when the scent fades so too does the light from the rose. The magnificent flower appears smaller and smaller within the canvas; the background becomes more prominent and a mixture of darker hues, dreamy and abstract brushstrokes fill the space. Akin to the dim flickering light of a fading candle, in the last work the rose’s scent has passed its crescendo. Even so, a warm glow basks the scene with a subtle glimmer of light – the last touches of its scent still hang in the air reminding all of the rose’s beautiful presence.
“I started the series by studying colours,” says the artist who cites a primary interest in traditional drawing and painting, noting among her favourite museums the Villa Borghese in Rome. “I studied photography at college so my camera is always with me,” she says. “My roses are picked from the garden. They are a pale mauve colour floating in the water bowl. For several hours I kept shooting this single rose. While I was shooting the rose bloomed in front of me.” The paintings in Scent of a Rose are the result of Sheikha Maytha’s renderings from her photographs. As she was shooting, the light continued to change which led her to paint each rose with a different effect and hue. “The light would hit the water and I would shoot the rose from a different angle and I would get a completely different effect,” she adds.
As guests view Sheikha Maytha’s poignant artwork they will hear the haunting music of Zbigniew Preisner. “I chose this music because it goes with my series of paintings,” says Sheikha Maytha. “When you listen to the music you can hear it build; each track has more instruments. So it is similar to the idea of scent in the rose – from its blooming to the scent going all around.” Music is of utmost importance to the artist; she always paints to the sound of music. And it is through music and her painting that Sheikha Maytha wants the viewer to imagine the scent of the rose that she paints. Through works such as these she captures what she loves and shares it so that we too take part in the enrapturing scent of a rose.
The first solo exhibition of Sheikha Maytha Al Maktoum will take place at Al Majlis Ballroom, Mina a’ Salaam, Madinat Jumeirah on Friday, January 20 from 2-8pm.