Through the lens — Magazine — The Galleria Al Maryah Island, Abu Dhabi
Through the lens
Through the lens

Through the lens

Women's style | October 11, 2017

As Abu Dhabi’s art season commences and the Louvre Abu Dhabi launches, Lamya Gargash opens up about what art means to her and how developments such as The Galleria on Al Maryah Island shape not only the UAE but our personal identities and experiences

Lamya Gargash is a great example of one of those women great at juggling acts.

The Emirati mother-of-three has somehow managed to focus on her passion — art, design and photography and to establish herself as a successful artist — while playing mum at home. At just 34 years old, the creative entrepreneur has achieved a lot; she was honoured to represent the UAE at the world’s leading contemporary visual art exhibition, the Venice Biennale, and has also published a coffee table book. 

“Art is my life,” says Lamya. “I can’t envision my life without it. It’s a haven, it’s my solace and it’s my friend. I’ve always been creative and quite sensitive and it’s wonderful that I am able to share my most intimate thoughts and experiences through art. The idea that I can work with what I love is the biggest blessing of all.”

Tell us what it was like to grow up in the UAE?

I’m fairly reserved because of the nature of my culture, faith and society but that truly represents who I am. When I went to study for my MA at Central Saint Martins, I thought initially that the nature of the work I would be creating would be disconnected from home. I struggled for a while before I realised it is only through personal experience that you can truly express and create art. My work has revolved around my home and my own personal experiences ever since.

I think all artists in some ways are reserved and that’s what makes their work interesting. Layer by layer, through art, we expose ourselves and our inner inhibitions.

I grew up in a very tight-knit community and lived in a compound with my extended family, but my mother always sought to expose us to the vast world through extracurricular activities. Music, art, languages and sports played a huge role in shaping who I am today. 

I do miss the simplicity of life back in the day. The idea that communication was so limited but so liberating appeals to me, so calling a friend meant using the house phone. We spent a lot of time outdoors despite the heat. My mother would buy us kites and we would race in the courtyard. Life back then was definitely more intimate. 

“Fashion plays a huge part in my life, because it allows for you to express and communicate your identity.”

Her favOURITE brands

Lamya Gargash says, “Some days I want to hit the town in my high heels and other days I just want to lounge on my sofa.” Here are some picks from her go-to brands available at The Galleria 

How would you describe your art?

My work has always been about documenting change through photography, art, illustration, installation and painting. Change has occurred in such a fast pace that trying to recollect old memories seems like it happened so long ago. From the first shopping malls, to the usage of mobile phones, it’s all happened quite fast. As exciting as it is to watch and observe, it can also be quite overwhelming. The banal intrigues me, and I find much beauty in what many overlook. The details are just as important.

I love what the camera captures, I love paying attention to details and using the camera to record and preserve what intrigues me. Capturing a moment in time or being spontaneous and the fact that I still use film means the anticipation of retrieving my images is exciting. It’s not so instant. I love waiting for results. I love all art forms. 


Lamya Gargash has participated in several film festivals including in Dubai, Locarno and Osaka, as well as the Amsterdam and Paris Arab Film Festivals. She has won a number of awards for her work in film and photography. And in 2004, the artist received first prize in the Emirates Film Festival, as well as the Ibdaa Special Jury Award for Wet Tiles. 

Talk us through a typical day for you with work, family, hobbies etc…

There are times when I spend days on my art, developing concepts. I have to be diligent and committed to my schedule for the sake of balance. It’s extremely challenging being a mother, artist, wife and business woman, so a schedule must be rigidly set to get my daily tasks done. Then there are the off days, where all I want to do is have a big bag of chips and binge. We are only human after all.

Some days are more intense than others, but I am quite good at multitasking. I can go from school drop offs to a spinning class to work meetings to painting and playing with my kids. As a mum, I have to be willing
to adapt.

How has the UAE changed in terms of art and culture since your childhood days?

It’s definitely progressed and changed. My photographic work, which I have been conducting for over a decade, focuses on the idea of cultural and social changes within space. How time has altered the way we communicate and go about our day via space and its composition. 

People often forget that architecture has played a huge role in dictating lifestyles and changes. We go through chapters in our lives in which we adopt different personas and it is definitely influenced by the change in our surroundings. Who we are today is a result of the change we have witnessed. We are a result of
our experiences.

Where do you see the art scene in this region moving towards?

People are more aware, more tolerant and accepting of the arts. It’s no longer considered a part-time hobby, but an actual profession. Personally, I have witnessed the change in attitudes towards art; people are keen and there are so many platforms to create, to express, showcase and even educate. With the rise in museums, galleries, institutions of all kinds be it music, painting or jewellery, people have stronger connections to art. You can be a banker but have a flair for music, or a doctor who loves photography. People no longer feel the need to be confined to one thing.

What would you say are your greatest achievements personally and professionally?

My children, representing my country and being the featured artist at The UAE’s debut appearance at the 2008 Venice Biennale, and publishing my book Presence in 2009.

What do you still have on your bucket list?

I would love to direct a film and use my cinematographic skills. I would love to get over my fear of heights and potentially do something crazy. I’d love to write a book, paint a massive mural, and win the Lion Award at the
Venice Biennale.

How important is fashion to you?

Fashion plays a huge part in my life, because it allows for you to express and communicate your identity. 

Who are your favourite designers in The Galleria and what are your highlights there? 

I love the fashion brands Miu Miu, Prada and Gucci, which all have a presence at The Galleria. I have to visit Novus Art Gallery. I’ve heard it’s great, and would definitely love to pop by. I am such an art enthusiast and always keen to explore new places.