Connecting Minds Through Art: Abdulrauf Khalfan

Shereen Shabnam

When he turned five years of age, Abdulrauf Khalfan asked his father for a drawing book, but he got a notebook instead! That didn’t dampen his spirits as he went on to draw a big boat on the first page, and with every passing day he added something new to his boat drawing.

His drawings at that time were inspired by trips with his family to the port close by. He was relentless in his pursuit of art at school and his teachers admired his drawings despite the fact that he came to school equipped with one pencil.

More recently at an exhibition, we saw a new side of creativity from Abdulrauf. His latest creation is not a painting, but rather a yellow garden hose and the hose’s black interior.  He creates new art pieces using hose pipes by visualising, then walking back and forth to his piece and carving with blade until he is fully satisfied with his masterpiece.

The collection features iconic people of the world like portraits of H.H Sheikh Mohammed, H. H Sheikh Zayed, Gandhi, Nelson-Mandela, Charlie Chaplin, Michael Jackson, and other iconic world figures. Abdulrauf is the first artist to use hoses to create artworks with portraits.

Art has been part of Abdulrauf’s life. In 1992, when he was nine years old, Abdulrauf entered a competition around the unification of Germany. He participated with a drawing of a big, cracked wall for which he received an award in Abu Dhabi.

Later on, at another competition for a logo for the World Tennis Club, he received first prize from around 10,000 entries and was awarded again by Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed al Maktoum, the president of Civil Aviation and Chief Executive and Chairman of Emirates group.

Abdulrauf’s success followed with winning another competition for the Dubai Shopping Festival where he secured the ninth place in the UAE for designing greeting cards for Rivoli group.

At that stage, he was advised to join the Dubai International Arts Centre and his father took him there twice for art classes but eventually Abdul Rauf decided to work on his skill alone and stopped attending.

Abdul Rauf experimented with different media where he used pieces of plywood, placed them on the floor and then drew on them with charcoal. He drew inspiration from magazines and newspapers and the subject matter of his paintings at the time consisted of horses, Sheikhs, traditional coffee pots and local traditions and heritage buildings.

At the age of twenty-two, Abdul Rauf had a dream in which a woman collected sea shells at the beach. That dream came to be an inspiration to try yet another medium and he started painting with oil paints, which added variety to his previous works in charcoal and pencil.

He also tried his hand at acrylic paint, to get a more vibrant colour mix, but it wasn’t his medium of choice, so he went back to using oil paints.

Abdulrauf draws images from his mind and his dreams. His art becomes his means of expression where he gets inspired by challenges in life which drive him to portray his emotions through his paintings.

The subject matter of his paintings is based on the traditions and symbols of the Emirati culture, portrayed through its distinct architectural heritage, its natural environment of palms, flowers and birds and the familiar day-to-day objects such as the traditional Emirati coffeepot.

As a proud citizen of the UAE, Abdulrauf produced a ‘3 Fingers’ artwork which denotes Win, Love and Victory and the fast development of Dubai inspired by the vision from His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum that has made Dubai successful on the world stage.

Abdulrauf’s style is marked by simplifying the objects he sees; hence, they appear as pictograms, symbols or signs.

Of life, Abdul Rauf says: “You are born poor, but you have to die rich in your heart, confident in your work and your achievements. Use your inner power and mind and if you lose, carry on with another venture. God says: if you work hard, you will get it, but you need to work hard for it!”

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