By Anand Holla
For an artist who loves painting skylines, British expat Stephen Watkins might have zeroed in on just the right place when he and his artist-wife Verity moved to Doha, seven years ago.
To give Qatar a well-rounded glimpse of his signature art that blends the keen sensibility of an artist with the sketching acumen of an architect, Watkins’s new solo exhibition opens Wednesday, as part of The Corridor at The Grand Hyatt Doha.
At the hotel’s lower lobby, the opening ceremony at 6pm will be attended by the British ambassador, Ajay Sharma, a long line of guests and Doha’s art enthusiasts. The Corridor is an initiative by Grand Hyatt Doha in partnership with Australian artist, Pip Hoy to offer a unique gallery space for locally based artists who wish to exhibit their work to the Doha public as well as international visitors alike.
The gallery also aims to support local artists whilst simultaneously raising awareness for the charity, Room To Read, which is committed to funding education for children in third world countries. “The goal of Grand Hyatt Doha is to raise enough funds to purchase a school library. With this goal in mind, all profits from artwork sales will be donated to Room To Read,” says a note from the hotel.
Watkins is known for his “architectural paintings” of Doha’s skyline and landmarks. As an introduction to his work, Watkins says, “I have always had a passion for art and architecture and have worked in the industry since 1997. I really enjoy seeing a project through from conception to completion. I also enjoy experimenting with paint on canvas using strong lines to depict landscapes and structures; I really enjoy playing around with the vivid colours that acrylics offer and the fluid feel of paints ... a good contrast to the more structured, technical side of architectural drawing.”
From an early age, Stephen had a passion for both art and architecture and knew ever since that he would like to pursue a career in architecture, the note further points out. His professional career has allowed him to use his freehand skills in creating many building styles. However, it wasn’t until his mid-20s that he decided to combine this with his love of art.
“My style has developed over the past few years and I have enjoyed depicting many skylines around the world including New York, Dubai, Sydney, Auckland, London, Houston, Melbourne, Cape Town. However, the benefit of living in the Middle East has encouraged me to be influenced by my local environment and develop my painting style into more Arabesque pattern styles and experiment with more abstracted views of the Doha skyline,” Watkins said.
Watkins’ style pulls in Arabesque patterns and a smattering of abstract elements, all of which lend a distinctive feel to even the most tried-and-tested imagery such as Doha’s skyline and landmark buildings.
Watkins’ wife Verity, who is also an artist, works from photographs that she has taken herself. At times, she borrows pictures of animals from her friends to produce paintings of other animals. In addition to camels, Verity paints elephants, turtles and most recently, Arabian horses. What is it about animals that Verity loves?
“I just love the character,” she says, “Before I came here and started doing camels, I used to paint lots of chickens, because they had so much personality. They were just so much fun and had so much character. I enjoyed painting them and I love their scruffiness.”
Christoph K Franzen, General Manager, Grand Hyatt Doha, said, “Our hotel is proud to support such an initiative and, in return, the local Doha community, as part of our Hyatt Thrive initiative. I believe that corporate support for local events is vital to ensure the local community and the business within it, literally thrive. Hyatt’s global corporate responsibility platform, Hyatt Thrive, begins at home – in the neighbourhoods and communities we serve.
Globally, Hyatt hotels are making significant impacts in their local communities throughout the year through the Hyatt Thrive pillars which are Environmental Sustainability, Economic Development & Investment, Education & Personal Advancement and Health & Wellness.”
Qatar’s residents can drop by The Corridor exhibition anytime from January 27 to March 19.
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