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Saudi art show spotlights young artists to watch in 2018

Rund Al-Arabi’s ‘From Bab Sherif to Omdurman’ 2017 photography collage. (Photo courtesy: ATHR)
Rund Al-Arabi's Time-Stamped, 2017.
Sahrish Ali's Cocoons, 2017.
Badr Ali's Firmbulvetr, 2016.
Amr Alngmah, Digital Spirituality, 2016.
JEDDAH: As Saudi Arabia rounds up a year of creative firsts, from concerts to Comic Con events, it seems that 2017 has been one for the books.
This is equally evident in the world of art, with the Kingdom playing host to a year full of art shows and exhibits. The art scene is fast-paced, bizarre and exciting and is always changing, with new artists emerging and established talents experimenting with their craft.
Rounding out the year, ATHR gallery’s Young Saudi Artist “Pulse” exhibit is set to run until Jan. 5 and is a biannual event in its fifth edition.
This year’s rather chaotic exhibit was based on the concept of “Time: Past, present and future” and showcased the works of 25 new artists, some of which were showcasing their art for the first time in their careers. The work ranged from awe-inspiring to disappointing, but it was refreshing to see such a wealth of new artists all exhibiting in one place.
Some pieces were truly bizarre, some were fun and cartoonish and others brought back a sense of nostalgia that would melt even the hardest art critic’s heart.
“There are so much amazing talents out there and as a photographer, I am focused on checking out the little people (new artists) — those who aren’t out there yet. I do this because I can see there are so many extremely talented people very deserving of the attention simply because they want to make art,” documentary photographer Iman Al-Dabbagh told Arab News.
One attention-grabbing artist was Obada Al-Jefri’s with a piece called “Trash Bags,” a series of three watercolor paintings and a sculpture of a cat in a trash bag made entirely of felt. The concept was unique, unnerving and intriguing.
“I came back from the US recently only to see that the stray cats’ infestation in my city has grown to a level where people are disgusted yet unmoved by their constant presence. They weren’t given any type of care or attention. They’re commonly viewed as garbage dwellers and invaders when we forget that they’re creatures that need to be taken care of just like any other domestic animal,” Al-Jefri told Arab News. “I want to bring attention to their plight and the importance of their being. Each painting is a lifelike representation of compassion and a challenge to the social construct that is a street cat, I wanted to shock a viewer to reconsider their stance toward them. There’s a balance of admiration and disgust that works, it speaks to you.”
Rex Chouk’s paintings — a contemporary commentary of the Saudi system — feature classical cartoon characters, such as Bugs Bunny running after Daffy Duck, integrated with slang or an icon from a global pop culture, car drifting for example, on a large canvas. His work brought out the child within.
Photographer and collagist Rund Al-Arabi’s “Circa now” of well-preserved photographs of family members also evoked a sense of nostalgia, much like Chouk’s work. According to Rund, “you control passing these memories on to the next generation.” She artfully placed one image on top of another, creating a fascinating collage.
“I dug up old photographs of my family and collected them accordingly. One is from Bab Shareef in Jeddah while another is in Um Durman, Sudan, another is in Canada while the other in Japan. I took months to mash each one and connect them, they’re an extension of each other. As I was looking at each picture, I felt that each one is connected to another and I could see a story form in front of me,” she told Arab News.
The year is coming to an end, but this art show goes on until Jan. 5 and serves as a reminder that there is always new, innovative Saudi Arabia-based talent waiting to burst onto the scene.

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