Behind the Seas: An Insight into Melanie Cosgrave’s Work

Winter Sand. Courtesy of the artist.
Winter Sand. Courtesy of the artist.

  Melanie Cosgrave, an Australian artist based in Dubai, is one of the artists Capsule Arts commissioned for Nikki Beach Resort & Spa. We were immediately attracted to her striking pieces and style, which fit Nikki’s overall theme perfectly.

We couldn’t help but feel intrigued and curious about her work, and wanted to know more. Melanie was more than happy to answer all our questions about her inspiration, her Sea Spray Series Dubai, her work process and her love for mixed media and large canvases.

The Pier Dubai. Acrylic oil wax mixed media on canvas. 107 x 100 cm, Diptych. Courtesy of the artist.

The Pier Dubai. Acrylic oil wax mixed media on canvas. 107 x 100 cm, Diptych. Courtesy of the artist.

You’ve lived and worked in Dubai for 10 years now, what influence has that had on your work? 

I develop my inspiration from day-to-day experiences; a huge part of my life in the UAE is spent near the beach enjoying the waters and sands, even in the hottest months! The serenity and tranquility helps clear my mind and allowed me to embrace my creative vision.

Sea Spray Series Dubai. Acrylic oil wax mixed media on canvas. 180 x 120 cm. Courtesy of the artist.
Sea Spray Series Dubai. Acrylic oil wax mixed media on canvas. 180 x 120 cm. Courtesy of the artist.

Your work fits Nikki Beach Resort and Spa’s look and feel beautifully. You seem to have a lot of artwork in that style and color theme, any special reason why?

The similarity was pure coincidence! However, like Nikki Beach, I aim to celebrate life everyday. You see that in the four main elements that I focus on and continue to appear in my work, which are: the sea, the sky, sand, and light. These elements provide me with endless inspiration, which is why you find them appear in my work from time to time.

Left: Morning Water. Acrylic oil wax mixed media on canvas. 75 x 75 cm. Right: Sea Spray Series Dubai. Acrylic oil wax mixed media on canvas. 90 x 90 cm. Both paintings courtesy of the artist.

Left: Morning Water. Acrylic oil wax mixed media on canvas. 75 x 75 cm. Right: Sea Spray Series Dubai. Acrylic oil wax mixed media on canvas. 90 x 90 cm. Both paintings courtesy of the artist.

Tell us more about your Sea Spray Series Dubai?

Sea Spray Series is a body of work that brings a common thread through a series of paintings about the sea in the UAE. The main inspiration, which you see reflected in this series, is offshore spray during Dubai winters. The colours come from the water foam on the sea’s surface.

I grew up in Melbourne, Australia, by the sea. I think this brings an underlying surface within my work as I draw on my memories of the water and colours from the sea in a very different landscape. These colours that emerge in my work here in Dubai emulate both memories and living experiences in the present moment.

Can you give us an insight of your work process? Do you plan and sketch out your series beforehand or do you paint as you go?

I never plan my process. However, music plays a significant part in the development of my work; and that’s how it evolves. Some of my works take a while to complete; as I keep coming back to it until it has a life of it’s own.

Left: Desert Dwelling 1. Right: Desert Dwelling 2. Both courtesy of the artist.

Left: Desert Dwelling 1. Right: Desert Dwelling 2. Both courtesy of the artist.

You use a lot of mix-media in your paintings, what medium(s) do you enjoy using the most?

I love working with mixed media; it is the foundation of all my work. I enjoy the experimental nature that mixed media gives as it allowed me to have the freedom to create new and interesting work.

I am very hands-on when it’s comes to my work and mediums such a graphite, charcoal, plasters, acrylics and oils, gold lead, threads, pastels. I also use different old papers from my travels over the years; some of which have calligraphy imprint on them from China and the Middle East.

My work usually begins with dark, solid colours along with layered media, such as printed text and textured papers. However, as I work and rework the canvas the overlying layers become lighter in colour – this also subtly conveys depth to the surface of the painting.

After the Desert. Acrylic oil mixed media on cavas. 90 x 90 cm. Courtesy of the artist.

After the Desert. Acrylic oil mixed media on cavas. 90 x 90 cm. Courtesy of the artist.

You seem to enjoy painting bigger canvases and talk about “letting go and see what happens”, what attracts you to painting large-scale abstracts?

Painting on large-scale canvases gives me the opportunity to create something powerful and striking. I like to see the effects of mixed media on a large surface; often when working on larger surfaces things are never what they seem at close up, as how they appear from afar. This always intrigues me, especially when I have to stand back and look at the visual effect it emits.

 

Al Jafliya: the eclectic neighbourhood

Located in the vibrant neighbourhood of Al Jafliya, the latest Rove Hotel is filled with eclectic art and accessories inspired by, or even bought from the area. In order to capture an authentic essence of Al Jafliya in the hotel, we ventured out to explore and understand the neighbourhood and its surroundings. Here are some photos from our little adventure.

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Entering the neighbourhood, we couldn't help but take photos of the graffiti covering the buildings. 2nd December Street roundabout, a well-known landmark, definitely brought back memories from our childhood.

Soon after we turned left at the roundabout, we were surrounded with big shop signs; a mixture of old fonts and kitschy colour combinations.

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Creativity fills up the neighbourhood; from large 3D keys as shop signs, to up-cycled chairs using fabrics, and wheels turned to plant pots. It's also a great place to find all things vintage, like these red boots we bought and used in the hotel.

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A number of shops had a variety of funky shisha colours and designs, we couldn't help but buy one or two for Rove, and a couple of kettles too!

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We were in fabric heaven! Completely surrounded by a variety of materials, textures, colours and patterns; options were endless.

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Doors in Al Jafliya were a big inspiration that we ended up using one on the hotel's Cabinet of Curiosities wall!

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The Making of Mercure Sohar: A talk with artist Lama Khatib Daniel

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Mercure Sohar welcomes travelers to the ancient capital of Sohar; a place also widely claimed to be the birthplace of the legendary Sindbad the Sailor.

Capsule Arts commissioned Dubai-based artist Lama Khatib Daniel who is known for her loose and fluid drawing style, and gift for storytelling.

The story unfolds through a series of monochrome drawings, which combine passages of text from the story with striking imagery illustrating Sindbad’s fantastical adventures, from his encounters with gigantic birds through to his lavish visits with kings the world over.

We sat down with Lama as she talked us through her research and sketching process, challenges, style, and what she learned from this experience.

Lama’s mood board of different depictions of Sindbad’s stories
Lama’s mood board of different depictions of Sindbad’s stories

The artwork in the hotel is inspired by the 15th century tales of Sindbad the Sailor, can you tell us how you went about developing these into wall illustrations? 

I started my research by reading the story again to refresh my memory. I took down notes throughout, which helped while researching illustrations related to the story. It’s fascinating to see the different depictions people have created of the same story!

Once I had collected enough information and inspiration, I started to sketch a few ideas on my drawing board, showing them to client at each stage before transferring and finalising the works into digital formats.

Work in progress: from initial sketches to final outcome.

Work in progress: from initial sketches to final outcome.

When you delve into the tales some of the stories are quiet gruesome – what were some of the challenges in visualising these tales knowing they would be seen in a hotel lobby and all day dining restaurant?  

I didn’t think of Sindbad as a gruesome tale when I was a kid, you definitely visualise things differently when you are older!

The key was to choose parts of the story where it’s not as gruesome to illustrate; the story is such a rich source of imagery that I had plenty of options. I also focused on toning down the look of the monsters so they weren’t too scary and hideous, while still remaining true to the story. You can see that in the sea monster/giant illustration.

Left: a toned-down sea monster Right: initial sketches, more aggressive, which had to be reworked.
Left: a toned-down sea monster Right: initial sketches, more aggressive, which had to be reworked.

The final artwork has a very dreamy and surreal style somewhat similar to your personal artwork practise, how did you find adapting your style to this project? 

It was almost natural to do as my style is all about flow and storytelling. Sindbad’s stories and adventures are so fantastical that they seem like a dream, which is why the illustrations look as though they are floating on the walls. I also experimented with incorporating my own handwriting and a proper typeface, which was fun to do and added to the sense of story telling.

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Were there any elements from the tale that inspired you for future projects?

I really enjoyed reading Sindbad’s first voyage; where he goes to sea, and when he sets ashore on what he thought was an island, it actually turns out to be a gigantic whale.

I was also really inspired by the story of Sindbad with the roc birds and enjoyed sketching what these mythical birds could have looked like using different brush strokes and thicknesses.

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To learn more about Lama and her works, visit our artist and printshop online. You can also read more about the Mercure Sohar, Oman on our project page.