Illustrations of the UAE

Hatty Pedder tells Time Out about her witty, colourful illustrations


These witty, colourful works by Hatty Pedder portray the Dubai we know and love, warts and all. Nyree Barrett meets the artist to learn more about her inspiration.

Standing in front of Hatty Pedder’s colourful, honest, at once mundane and yet utterly wondrous works, it’s tricky to figure out what makes them so transfixing. Is it her masterly use of line? The vibrancy? The collaged, mixed-media depth? While all these elements are striking, what really catches the attention is the fact it’s easy to identify with the moments on her canvases. One snapshot from Dubai World Cup shows two women dressed up to the nines, bodies awkward from sucking in their tummies and faces bored, disappointed with the event and agitated by their stiletto shin splints. Many women have been in the same situation – and that’s what makes the pieces so delightful.

These pieces realistically capture moments in the UAE: woeful joggers contrasted with joyous Bohra muslims dancing in Safa Park (below left); the vertically challenged, balding man standing alongside a buxom blonde at Dubai World Cup; sunburnt tourists lounging on the sand at Jumeirah Open Beach. All are uniquely Dubai moments, captured by an artist who has resided in the city for 16 years.

An illustrator, photographer and painter, Hatty uses all three processes to manifest the works. She attends events, camera in hand, to capture the architecture, the general scene and a few of the characters. Once home, she’ll plan her more detailed canvases with an almost architectural sketch, before beginning to paint. Some characters will be in her mind already, some in the photos, and some will emerge as she paints, but every one has a story. ‘I absolutely love the fine detail of the things going on in these scenes – it’s like catching a slice of history,’ she explains. Throughout her process she’ll often add mixed-media touches – a swarthy man’s jacket and red-velvet curtains crafted from sumptuous textured paper she’s picked up on her travels. Such thorough canvases take up to four months to create, working five days a week, six hours a day.

Stare at one of these larger works for more than five minutes and you’ll spot hundreds of Dubai types, each with a unique story. In a work that canvasses an Art Dubai party there’s a lady dressed to the nines, all alone, awkwardly eating her canapé; two ladies dancing, letting it all hang out now, regretting it tomorrow and chefs in the background, feeding the masses. All of them have stories. You’ll be sure you can recognise at least one of them – and every time you look at a canvas, you’ll discover someone new.

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