“I love cities; the noise, smell, the sense of being surrounded by urban systems and social networks.” In her previous series Portrait of a City, Julia Ibbini layered shapes and tones to make a visual clash, reminiscent of glitch art. It was a result of “countless hours reworking arrays of colour and line applied over a background of maps, architectural blueprints, charts and patterns to create a narrative about a place or point in time.”

Julia Ibbini has lived in Abu Dhabi for most of her life. She’s is a member of the No White Walls collective, which has been showing annually in Abu Dhabi since 2013. Their next show is on 13th October in Fairmont Bab Al Bahr. If you miss that one, her studio is often open to the public.

For her latest set of works, Ibbini takes all the hum and buzz and chaos of humanity and transforms mayhem into well-behaved constellations of detail and order. Recently her tools have become even more precise: “I’m currently doing a lot of work with drafting Mylar (a semi-transparent plastic film traditionally used in architectural practice) which has enabled me to explore techniques with ink that I couldn’t previously achieve on paper. I’m also experimenting with laser cutting for the first time, which is opening up new possibilities for layering and depth in my work. I’ve spent much of this year really widening my understanding of using digital tools and formats to achieve a level of detail and complexity that was previously unimaginable.”

Hand cutting and painting these details is precise, time-consuming, meditative. Once she’s done, it’s not over: hundreds of tiny crystals are often set into the pieces. “I visited the V&A museum in London and was completely fascinated with the richness of patterns and texture I found in their Middle East and South Asia exhibits; everything from Kashmiri shawls to Minakari enamel work.”