Well... this it is.... we depart the People's Great Jumhurriyah of Sharjah today then spend some time in Dubai with friends before disappearing into the grey clouds of British summertime.
It is hard to believe that two years have passed quite so quickly even if time does go faster as you get older (a proven scientific fact). It has been a mixed experience but we end up leaving with a relatively good UAE story. After a disastrous start (due in large part to spouse's crisis-engineering employers) we have now managed to recoup our early Dubai losses. I guess we were just ahead of the curve and had our financial crisis about a year before everybody else. As a consequence we are now well into economic recovery although this is largely thanks to Sharjah and means that we don't have to panic about looking for jobs for a few months. So we will just chill out and settle slowly back into the London house and do very little except the basic manual labour associated with long overdue house and garden maintenance.
I will also be able to think about my own art! The constant pressure to earn money here was just not conducive to artistic output. In two years I produced four average prints, reworked some old paintings and created four towers of trash. Ironically (or perhaps not!) it was the Towers of Trash that gave me two of the highlights of my time here - exhibiting at the Creek Art Fair in Dubai and then at the Cultural Foundation in Abu Dhabi. Three of them live on - one is now in Germany, one in Ethiopia and the final one has found a loving home in the Environmental Sciences department of the American University of Sharjah!
Another real highlight was working on the Sharjah Biennale which gave me a lot to think about creatively on so many different levels. I have blatantly stolen ideas about processes, materials, concepts and ways of communicating that I will take back to the UK with me and present as my own! I don’t yet know exactly how this and all my experiences over the past two years will come out in my creative work. However, the best thing is that I go back to the UK knowing I have a rare period ahead of me where I simultaneously have the two key commodities of time AND money! This means that I can sift through it all at leisure in my own space and then just focus on externalisation and production. I have (mostly) enjoyed being a facilitator, promoter and reviewer of other peoples art and culture over the past two years BUT I cannot tell you how much I am looking forward to just being an artist for a while again!!
I will keep up this blog especially if I see or do anything that relates to the UAE when I am in London or elsewhere. If I get to Venice before November I'll write about the (Dis)United Arab Emirates Pavilion and will obviously post any new UK Dubai bashing articles on the UAE Community Blog :). I also have no doubt that I will now start hearing stories from Pakistani taxi drivers in London who have cousins in Dubai all of whom I will obviously have met ........