See Dubai's amazing 'horseshoe sculptures'

Zimbabwean artist Chris Nurse is bringing old horseshoes to life at Jumeirah Creekside

Drive by Bab Al Shams Desert Resort & Spa on the Al Qudra Road towards Seeh Al Salam Endurance Stables and you’ll see a sculpture of three prancing horses next to a UAE flag – in the middle of a roundabout. The life-size creations are the handiwork of Chris Nurse who besides being a farrier, also creates unique sculptures using old horseshoes. Since horses are a huge part of Arabian culture, Nurse says he likes to keep his creations cultural. ‘I’ve made statues of falcons, camels and horses from recycled horseshoes. There are so many around me to use,’ he says.

A resident in Dubai for more than 20 years, the Zimbabwean artist works for His Highness Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and UAE Minister of Finance, at his Arabian and thoroughbred stables, shoeing horses. In his free time he creates sculptures with the abundance of used shoes at the stables. ‘It’s now more of a hobby than a full-time job. I read a magazine and saw similar creations and I thought to myself, “I can do that.”’

This hobby has provided the farrier with both a business and an art exhibition – ‘Cold Iron Art’, on display at Jumeirah Creekside Hotel until Saturday July 18. Nurse’s talent developed as a result of his training and apprenticeship in the South African Army, which he left in 1979 to study at the University of Pennsylvania in the US. It was there that he took up an internship in farrier work before moving to Dubai to pursue it as a career. Through the generosity of Sheikh Hamdan, who set up a workshop for Nurse at his stables, Nurse has been able to establish Cold Iron Artistry. The company creates everything from small gift items such as candle holders, welcome signs, tables and chairs to more elaborate sculptures.

Besides his works for the exhibition, Nurse has also made sculptures for the ruling family of Dubai – many of which can be seen around the Seeh Al Salam Endurance Stables. ‘Most of my work started at the stables,’ he explains. ‘We produce items that people want or that we can make, so I’ve made a lot of curtain rails, fireplace stools, and candleholders, for example; anything that is appealing in the wrought iron world. It’s really just a question of detail and time.’

The small, three-man operation is run by Nurse alongside a welder and a painter and creating these life-size sculptures is no easy task for them. Each piece can take from ten to 15 days to finish. A horse sculpture can require up to 460 horseshoes to make, while it might take up 700 to sculpt a camel. Nurse uses a mixture of materials including copper and brass to complement the horseshoes – ‘I just think a little finesse goes a long way,’ he smiles.

The artist’s attention to detail is what he considers most important, and can be seen in the careful assembly of the statues – each shape differs from the next to represent a body part of the animal. ‘Each shoe is beaten, shaped and hand-welded. Then there’s the grinding and cleaning process before it is painted and presented, but it’s fun seeing it come to life,’ he says.

With Nurse’s sculptures already getting the royal seal of approval, ‘Cold Iron Art’ is worth a view.
Free. Until August 18. Jumeirah Creekside Hotel, Garhoud (04 230 8555).

Three more sculpture artists to see in Dubai

Klaus Mertens
Inspired by Africa, the artist transforms ornament and pattern into three dimensions.
Street 4A, Al Quoz (055 395 0495).

Ruben Sanchez
The artist’s works will feature in the ‘Made in Tashkeel’ exhibition.
Until August 20. Tashkeel, near Nad Al Sheba Police Station (04 336 3313).

Zaman Jassim
The artist uses unusual forms and mixed media in his works on display at The Courtyard Gallery.
Street 6A, Al Quoz (04 347 9090).

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