Weird, quirky ... yet brilliant

Updated 04 November 2016
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Weird, quirky ... yet brilliant

People in the GCC region, especially Saudi Arabia, have been educating themselves in their art and culture, as the country’s latest art boom (five years and counting) is making its mark. The sky is the limit for special artists and there are no boundaries, it’s only them and their talents. One such amazing artist is Balqis Al-Rashed, a contemporary artist exploring performance art, a universe-loving and star-searching artist who is in tune with herself, the Earth and beyond. It’s not an exaggeration when I talk about her work to say it’s different, it’s weird and quirky but in such a beautiful way that you can’t help but want to know more.
Balqis hasn’t been on the art scene for many years, but she is making her way onto it beautifully. Her path into art stems from the years of living in Beirut and later on studying graphic design at the American University in Beirut, her form of art can’t be labeled, it can’t be defined yet somehow you see something beautiful in the mess of her thought collages. Her time exploring the world of art resulted in finding and cultivating her artistic expression as one that can express her ethnic mosaic mixed in with her true voice.
In 2015, she participated in the March Project at the Sharjah Art Foundation, an educational residency program for young artists. She exhibited her largest art installation under the name “Once we fell from the sky and landed in Babel” in the old heritage area turned into art spaces with a souk nearby where she found inspiration. The installation was a large concrete spiral “mebkhara” (used by Khaleejis to burn incense) that held many different meanings. There’s concrete that represents modernity, there’s a spiral shape that represents evolution and progress, the carpet that was placed around and inside the spiral installation inspired by the nearby souk and the burning incense that allowed visitors to literally smell nature mixed with tradition. The colorful carpet used was inspired by the many shopkeepers of the souk, where the edge of the carpet contrasted with the concrete welcoming visitors in. An Arab tradition requires people to remove their shoes as they enter a personal space and the concept was used with the installation.
“This monument attempts to portray a sensory and experiential space of dichotomies; a contemplative public space where contrasting beliefs, objects and practices are recreated and re-appropriated in order to blur the distinction of established systems and their agencies and transform them into a collective city experience. Dichotomies such as modernity and the past, sacred and profane, material and immaterial, labor and leisure, tradition and progress are in contrast because they are in constant threat of losing their value. The execution of the artwork was exciting yet challenging as it was designed to be heavy on labor, transforming the creation process into a ritualistic performance of labor toward the unknown,” said Balqis.
She’s recently made waves with her hula-hooping performances, a medium she uses to channel her higher self and inner child. Hula-hooping represents an innocence, a form of entertainment and playfulness that turned controversial solely through public opinion due to the artist donning the veil, a representation of her culture.
“I chose to use the veil as a modern representation of womanhood in our culture. It has become the static visual identification of the feminine collective. My work generally depicts a high level of contrast, whether it’s intentional or not. I enjoy playing around with contrasting ideas and aesthetic elements and “A State of Play” is a great example of that where I was able to achieve a powerful negotiation of meanings by combining a hoop, a child’s toy, with this cultural representation. The hoop, representing a child’s innocent play and urge for self-expression is surprisingly working in complete harmony with these representations, giving it a movement, a form and an essence,” explained Balqis.
She goes on to explain the use of the hula-hoop as a meditative tool, to reach a state of surreal discovery and our bodies are mere vessels. Her hula-hooping was a tool, that enabled her to free her soul and capture a certain freedom that her mind allowed her to reach.
“I find the niqab to be a very interesting piece of garment. It perplexes me. How can a black piece of fabric restrict and allow, empower and oppress, protect and expose all at once, it’s fascinating. The niqab gave me a sense of freedom that I didn’t think it can offer, it allowed me to share myself with the world without compromising my identity. In a sense, it is the extraction of the ego on an unknown path of self discovery. The artwork was able to innocently touch on many sensitive subjects that I find necessary to think and start talking about. The fact that we are asking “why” is a great start. It starts a discourse that is important to have today. I felt I was able to start a dialogue, allow people to question the illusion and discover the world of new possibilities.”
Art is not complicated, it’s a personal deep interpretation of oneself presented to the public to experience on their own, finding their own rendition of themselves. Imagine being able to find out something new about yourself that you haven’t ever tapped into before, a talent, an understanding, something that just might surprise you.

— Photo credit: Nidal Morra


First charity art auction in Saudi Arabia hits SR4.8 million in sales

Updated 33 min 34 sec ago
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First charity art auction in Saudi Arabia hits SR4.8 million in sales

  • The event, which featured 43 works by Saudi and Arab artists, was held at historic Nassif House in Al-Balad, Jeddah
  • Tawaf around the Kaaba 2,” a painting by Saudi artist Abdullah Al-Shalty, fetched SR 650,000, the highest price paid for any single work in the auction

JEDDAH: Art for Al Balad, the first charity auction of contemporary art in the Kingdom, achieved sales of SR 4.8 million ($1.3 million) on Wednesday.

The event, which featured 43 works by Saudi and Arab artists, all of which sold, was held at historic Nassif House in Al-Balad, Jeddah, on Wednesday. It was organized by the Ministry of Culture in cooperation with auction house Christie’s.

“It was much above our expectations; we are very happy,” said Michael Jeha, chairman of Christie's Middle East.

About 200 Saudi art collectors joined artists and other members of the Saudi and international cultural communities at the event. Bidding was highly competitive, with “Tawaf around the Kaaba 2,” a painting by Saudi artist Abdullah Al-Shalty, fetching SR 650,000, the highest price paid for any single work in the auction.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Nassif House was built in 1872. Saudi Arabia’s founder, King Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud, was received at this house upon his entry to the city in 1925.

• The Saudi government is keen to restore and preserve buildings with historic and cultural significance, and carries out regular renovation work.

• Al-Balad, or Jeddah historic district, is one of five UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Kingdom. It contains about 600 buildings that date back to the 19th century.

 

“Where to” by Prince Badr bin Abdulmohsen was the second-most expensive work, selling for SR 500,000, while “Witness in the Desert” by Abdullah Al-Sahikh attracted a winning bid of SR 380,000.

“It was extremely pleasing, very encouraging,” said Jeha. “The energy in the room was fantastic. The enthusiasm was very strong. I think for the very first auction, we can all be extremely pleased.”

Jeha described the growth of the art scene and culture in general in Saudi Arabia as very impressive, and said that the Ministry of Culture has developed a strong platform and program for the coming years, which will help to establish art and culture in the hearts and minds of people in the Kingdom.

The profits from the auction will help to establish a new heritage museum in Jeddah’s historic district and support The Help Center, a non-profit organization that provides customized support to children in the city with special educational needs.

The auction received donations and funding from galleries, cultural foundations, private collectors, and artists across the Arab World, the assistance of which was acknowledged by the Ministry of Culture.

“This would not be possible without the generous support of both the donors and the talented artists,” said Hamed bin Mohammed Fayez, deputy minister of culture, in his opening speech.

The ministry aspires to create and develop a cultural environment in which artists and other creatives can access a platform that celebrates a shared identity and builds understanding between people.

Speaking of the Ministry’s three main objectives in its cultural vision for 2019, Fayez said that it aims to support the nation’s cultural transformation by promoting culture as a way of life, enable the sector to contribute to the economy, and encourage international cultural exchanges.

Before the auction, the works on sale were on display to the public in an exhibition on June 23 and 24.