Hype magazine chats to four Dubai-based artists who’ve turned their backs on the nine-to-five to focus on ‘creating’ full time through design, illustration, cartography and craftsmanship. 

How many of us wish we had the guts to break free from the nine-to-five grind? How many of us harbour a creative passion that we’ve been supressing for years? How many of us do anything about it?

Well four artists have taken the plunge and stepped out of their comfort zones to turn their creative passion into professional careers, and their work is on display at A4 Gallery this week.

The Dubai-based artists – Maddy Butcher, Clare Napper, Paul Green and Robert Durrant – are staging the first in a series of exhibitions in Al Quoz this week. No U-Turn brings together their four different disciplines and perspectives of Dubai life.


Two prints from Clare’s Highlife Dubai series.  

It features Maddy’s intricate portrait-illustrations of local, regional and international ‘heroes’ from all walks of life and backgrounds; a new range of Clare’s satirical Highlife Dubai posters; Paul’s limited edition, handmade prints that make subtle suggestions and broader statements about city life; and Robert’s slick, detailed illustrated maps and slogans of the city.

A piece by Robert Durrant

Whether you want to cast your eyes on some great contemporary art or seek some straight-talking careers advice from this fab four – or both – the No U-Turn Exhibition seems like a great place to start.




How long have you been an artist? Unofficially, since I first held a wax crayon.

Favourite piece of art you’ve created? A painting of my dad that hangs in my mum’s living room. His forehead’s a bit too wide, but I got the eyes right.

Where in Dubai really inspires you? Deira. Nipping over on an abra and then ducking along all the back streets behind the Gold Souk makes me feel human again.

One thing in your studio you couldn’t live without? My right hand. It’s pretty essential; I’d be nothing without it.

What do you think of the art scene in Dubai? This is an electric time to be here. So many professional artists have moved to the UAE permanently, even just in the last three years, and more are joining all the time. I get jealous of the street art in cities like London and Barcelona, and frustrated by Dubai’s lack of outdoor canvases, but it forces artists to be more passionate about getting out and finding opportunities.



How long have you been an artist? I’m still patiently working on becoming one.

Favourite piece of art that you’ve created? I’ll let you know when I’ve made it.

Where in Dubai really inspires you? Where doesn’t? It’s an amazing city with incredible people and stories in every corner.

One thing in your studio you couldn’t live without? My graphics tablet and a pencil. Technically two, but who’s counting?

What do you think of the art scene in Dubai? There’s so much amazing local art and talent in the region. Something big is going to happen soon, and it’s going to start in Dubai. I’ve been here for nearly 20 years, and Dubai’s come on in huge leaps and bounds. Great people and companies are embracing and endorsing both the arts and the artistic community, and creating amazing projects that continue to inspire.



How long have you been an artist? I’ve always been into art. I did it for A Level, and went on to do a graphic design degree. Fifteen years of graphic design honed my artistic skills.

Favourite piece of art you’ve created? My ‘Thank Goodness for Nanny’ print – it seems to get the strongest reaction from people. Although it’s probably the most controversial of my Highlife Dubai collection, it’s definitely not my best seller.

clare napper thank goodness for nanny

Where in Dubai really inspires you? The people here inspire me more than places. I like people watching and meeting people – it helps give me insights into life out here that we can all relate to.

One thing in your studio you couldn’t live without? At the moment, it’s my computer, as that’s where it all happens. But next year I’m looking forward to exploring my art through paper, paint and walls – I’m getting square eyes from staring at my screen so much.

What do you think of the art scene in Dubai? While it might not be the most liberal in the world, there’s now a new exhibition every week. It’s great to see galleries featuring artists from all over the Middle East, as well as expat talent.



How long have you been an artist? This is new to me. I started a print shop – Toil and Tinker – a year ago and I’ve been venting my creativity ever since. Not sure I’d call myself an artist, though, I’m more of a graphic designer.

Favourite piece of art you’ve created? I love the stuff I’m doing now, with traditional screen-printing. It’s my style, and I love the way I print them.

Where in Dubai really inspires you? Man, I just love this city. I love riding the Metro, walking through Satwa, and seeing the sun set over the Creek.

One thing in your studio you couldn’t live without? My MacBook – I love my Mac.

What do you think of the art scene in Dubai? I think it’s brilliant; it’s very receptive and open.

Exhibition details 

What: No U-Turn Exhibition

Where: A4 Gallery, Alserkal Avenue, Al Quoz 1, Dubai

When: Sunday, September 13 to Saturday, September 19, 9am to 7pm, open until 10pm on September 14

Why: This is the collective’s first show together. The first of many, we hope.

How: Taxi to Alserkal Avenue

Cost: Free

Info: More at the U Turn Facebook page

Heads up: You can check out the art, buy it if you like it or just enjoy a chinwag with the artists.

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