Art in Abu Dhabi – Departure

“The principles of true art is not to portray, but to evoke.”

Thomas Merton

The 18 metre long iron ship outside Warehouse 421 appears ghostly against the darkening sky. The day’s heat stubbornly clings to it, shaping and altering it slowly, exactly as the artist Xavier Mascaró intended. Together with the fleet of 26 individually crafted boats inside the gallery, it forms the focal point of the Spanish artist’s exhibition Departure. They seem to float silently through space and time. It is uncanny how the artist succeeds in creating a sense of lightness and movement working with a material like iron.

Bent on having fun and allowing the process to be organic, instead of meticulously planning and executing it, Xavier says that he likes to provoke accidents during the casting process. Sand casting seems to be an appropriate method to birth these sculptures that are intended to provoke reflection and conversation, instead of carrying a specific message. The observer has no choice but to become an integral part of the art, as these fragmented structures call for a filling-in of meaning.

As universal icons they appear timeless, and the themes Xavier weaves through his work are both personal and universal. The death of his mother when he was 13 still impacts on his life through his work in which the theme of absence and loss always seems to resurface. But these boats also talk about waiting and anticipation. After each departure, there must be an arrival.

It seems apt to showcase this work in the UAE, where people have long fostered a special relationship with boats and the sea through trading, fishing and pearling. Industries that not only dominated the economic lives of the people, but also their emotional ones. Poetry from modern Emirati poets, highlighting these relationships, have been included to make it even more relevant for the local audience, and allows for a different kind of conversation. Historical context intermingles with the transient reality of life where the majority of residents in the UAE can, at best, only temporarily call it home.

The old wooden dhows still ply the waters of the Arabian Gulf, but wind power is now reserved for racing dhows. Engine power are called upon in modern ship building, and with it, contemporary history has taken on a different face and story.

“The boats represent the passing of time, always flowing, always leaving things behind, as some sort of metaphor of our lives.”

Xavier Mascaró


I attended the first session of their wonderful Wednesdays at the Warehouse Series, entitled “Meet the Artist”. Mahnaz Fancy, editor of Canvas Magazine did a stellar job in facilitating the event through conversation with Xavier.

Warehouse 421 is located in Mina Zayed near the Dhow Harbour  (GPS co-ordinates: N 24° 31′ 02.03″  E 54° 22′ 14.40″)

Opening Times: Daily from 10am – 8pm (closed on Mondays)

Departure is on until 4 September 2016.