Hussein Al-Mohasen — graffiti the Saudi style

Rima Al-Mukhtar

Published — Wednesday 4 September 2013

Last update 1 October 2013 4:53 am

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Saudi visual artist Hussein Al-Mohasen has been active in the art world in the Gulf region since he first appeared in 1999 at the Al-Janadriyah Festival in his native Saudi Arabia. Since then he has occupied a place alongside pioneering Saudi artists.
Al-Mohasen’s work, characterized by a singular dialogue between the audience and the artist, is a series of surgical incisions, cutting open the theater of horror and comedy, called the Middle East, into frozen frames. These images are never static. Al-Mohasen’s sharp-colored stenciled images translate into continuous and extended narratives of experiences that not only describe the world, but also actively participate in it.
Arab News interviewed Al-Mohasen and talked about his artwork and his inspiration.

Arab News: What is it about graffiti that attracted you to the art medium?
HM: “I started to experiment with graffiti art as I found it so inspiring to see people all over the world showing how they feel with just a few words, sprayed onto a wall. I find the physicality of creating this type of work liberating, as well as the spectrum of colors I have at my disposal. Color is very important in my work — the different connotations associated with certain colors embellish what I am saying.”

AN: Are there messages behind your artwork? What are they?
HM: “Culture is universal, rather than regional and I look at poetry to explore this idea that we have one common language. All the people in the world deserve to have peace.
“For example, in the artwork ‘Oil For Food,’ I am exploring the idea of freedom and food, and the idea that food should be a basic human right rather than a privilege.”

AN: What are the materials do you use in your art?
HM: “In most of my new work I am using mixed media on paper and canvas.

AN: What inspires you when working on an art piece?
HM: “There are so many things inspired me for my art. Reading books is very inspiring and meeting new people and listening to music for sure.”

AN: You showcased your artwork in so many places around the world. Tell us about this experience?
HM: “Each time I do an art show or show my artwork in any place I learn so many things. It’s so inspiring to me. I love to meet new people. I’ve had solo exhibitions in Dubai, Beirut, Jordan and Kuwait. In many Kingdom’s cities too, of course, and I’ve enjoyed each exhibition.”

AN: What do you think of the art scene in Saudi Arabia?
HM: “I am kind of happy about the art scene in Saudi Arabia. There are so many artists working so hard to make new art and trying to be different and many new art gallery have opened up in the past few years.”

AN: What does it take for Saudi Arabia to be leading in art world?
HM: “It’s all about art education, understanding art and to make art part of our life, not just for decorative art or for events. For this it’s very important to have art schools, art galleries, a museum of modern art and an art history museum. We should also support artists in our country, especially those who dedicate themselves as full time artists.”

AN: Tell us about your favorite graffiti art piece?
HM: “Most of my art pieces are important to me, but if I were forced to choose, I’d pick my Oil For Food artwork.”

AN: What is your next step?
HM: “I am working on my art this summer and I’m trying to attract the interest of new art galleries around the world.”

AN: Where do you wish to see your work?
HM: “I hope one day when we have an art museum for modern art in our country. I would like to see my work there.”

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