Dubai through the eyes of artist Melanie Francesca
Dubai-based artist Melanie Francesca talks about her most important tools, her future plans and why she loves her adopted home…
Where are you from? I’m Swiss-Italian. I’m from The Dolomites, near Tyrol.
When did you come to Dubai? Eight years ago. In Italy I was an artist and a writer. I met my husband in Milan, and then moved here, where we got married and had two children. And I’m still here.
What do you do? I write, I draw and I paint. I mainly use an ink pen for my art, so it’s like I’m always writing something.
How long have you been an artist? It’s a necessity, like breathing. Even when I was four, I was drawing. Now, if I’m not drawing, my hand starts to hurt.
How would you describe your style? I grew up surrounded by big cathedrals, and paintings by Michelangelo or Caravaggio. I like to draw stories. Humans are at the centre of my art. It’s like in the Renaissance, whereas now, everything is technological and done by computers.
What inspires you? The magic of life, really: the spirit and energy of it. I think everything happens for a reason. I like to mix up form and concept because I’m highly conceptual in my art. With The Box, which I’m doing now, I feel like there’s a whole universe inside. A universe of old stories – stories of paradise and the different stages of life, from suffering to joy.
Tell us more about The Box, your new installation. It’s your interpretation of Pandora’s Box, right? In Greek mythology, Pandora is a beautiful maiden bestowed with every virtue of grace and beauty. Zeus gives her a beautiful vase but orders her never to open it. Driven by curiosity, Pandora opened the box, unleashing the woes of the world upon humanity.
The Box represents beauty and its opposite: war and death, the cycle of life. It’s about the situation of suffering and human limitation, but it’s also an elevation of the spirit, where this condition of desperation turns into elevation in grace.
This is just the first box in a series that I’m planning. It’s like I’m writing a book, and each box is a different chapter. My next box will be about paradise.
Where do you do most of your art? At home. It’s difficult to combine being a mother with being an artist. Many artists give up motherhood. But I think that my children are my biggest artwork, because you see a real person in front of you, and think ‘I did this.’
What’s your most important tool as an artist? The nib for my ink pen. Back in the 14th century, Leonardo Da Vinci was using pens like this – dipping the nib in the ink and drawing. You put the pen in the ink, and you have to really scratch the canvas, which makes a sound that’s almost like music to me.
I can’t live without my pen nibs, and it’s quite difficult to find them here because people don’t use pens like this in Dubai. I have to get mine shipped from Venice.
First impressions of Dubai? It was completely different back then. There was nothing where JBR is, just a hotel and lots of construction. The skyscrapers on Sheikh Zayed Road were impressive – so much modernity surrounded by so much sand.
Have those impressions changed? In Europe you can enjoy the old buildings, but here, there are so many new things and space for architects to play. I think in Dubai, there’s a new Renaissance going on.
Favourite place to eat in Dubai? I know all the restaurants because my husband is a real gourmet guy, and he likes to eat well, but I’m not a big eater. But I love At.mosphere in the Burj Khalifa because you can see the whole city at your feet, like a sea of stars. As an artist, the visuals are more important than the food.
Favourite place to catch up with friends? At the moment, I like Cove Beach. There’s a nice breeze and you can hear the sea.
Favourite club or music event in Dubai? Since I’m Italian, I have to say Andrea Bocelli, even though he came two years ago.
Favourite international DJ or band? I love old music, like Pink Floyd, Rolling Stones and Guns N’ Roses.
What do you do when you need some ‘me’ time? I run for 40 minutes a day, and I watch a film. I watch action films, like James Bond, or Mission: Impossible. I don’t know how people can sit on the sofa and watch films like this, films that get the adrenaline pumping, because I’ll watch them and run 6km without even thinking.
How would you sell Dubai to someone who has never visited the city? I’d say that Dubai’s a fantastic place because there are a lot of things to do. If somebody loves to go out, there are so many places. There are beaches, you can camp in the desert. For tourists, it’s nice to come here and enjoy everything Dubai has to offer.
What’s the secret to success here? If you have energy and passion, you can do what you want. If you have something to do, or say, then do it.
Top tip for getting the most out of Dubai? Just talk to people and enjoy this multicultural society.
What’s next for you? I’m going to make another exhibition in Abu Dhabi, and in Italy, and maybe in Russia. I’ll bring this box everywhere. I’m also writing a book, which I want to get published. It’s a novel, in Italian.
Step into Melanie’s The Box installation at ProArt Gallery, Palm Strip Mall, Beach Road, Jumeirah 1, Dubai, until December 15.