Full of romantic and dream-like scenes, Heitham Adjina’s first ever solo show in the Middle East feels like a discovery. Having practiced as an architect for his entire professional life, Adjina is undoubtedly a skilled draughtsman but he is so much more than that. He has a mastery over emotion that firmly places him in the field of visual art. With a lifelong career in building and designing some of the most iconic urban structures in the Gulf – collaborations with Norman Foster and Zaha Hadid appear on his CV – Adjina has spent his personal life fascinated by the narratives that unfold within them.

Using colour fields and often figurative details, Adjina’s 28 works on display in Showcase Gallery are the story of human kind. In A Delicate Balance (2016), two figures composed of abstract and undulating shapes dance upon a mosaic of vibrant shades of yellow, orange and grey. In Siesta Dreams (2015), a female figure reclines on a white slab under a canopy of the night sky. She is ethereal and somehow emits a force that pulls the viewer in. The richness of the colours in this piece as well as the slice of watermelon and lantern by her side are a reference to Adjina’s native Iraq, where he was born and lived until he was 17 before moving to London.

But in all these paintings, Adjina’s architectural influence is clearly evident. He employs straight lines as devices to create perspective or framing tools and he often segments his pieces into clear planes of different colours. Yet, amid these clear and carefully constructed compositions there is an exploration into abstraction, which, in turn, reveals the intangible elements of lived experience. Although he began to create art before he embarked upon his working life, until now, it has taken a background role. However, with this, his first solo in the region, it is clear that his former passion project is now emerging to take its place at centre stage.

Heitham Adjina: The Architecture of Being, Alserkal Avenue, Dubai. Showcase Gallery. March 12 – May 12, 2019.