‘Refusing to Be Still’ exhibition ‘shows vitality of Saudi art’

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Art works are shown at one of the venues of the "Refusing to Be Still" art exhibition in Jeddah. (AN photo)
Updated 01 March 2018
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‘Refusing to Be Still’ exhibition ‘shows vitality of Saudi art’

JEDDAH: A groundbreaking art exhibition will give visitors a unique chance to meet visiting artists through a series of workshops, organizers said.

More than 30 Saudi and international artists are featured in the exhibition, called 21,39, which opened on Feb. 7 under the title “Refusing to Be Still.”

The exhibition, organized annually by the Saudi Art Council, is in its fifth year. Artworks explore the old and the new, the permanent and the temporary, the emotional and the aesthetic.

The display also highlights the growing cultural cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Germany, with Berlin conceptual artist Ilona Kalnoky among the exhibitors. Her work features cubes of clay brought directly from Germany and finished through the ancient process of pit burning in Jeddah.

Eight Saudi artists recently met Kalnoky during a study tour of Germany in the lead-up to the exhibition.

The German consulate is one of the sponsors of the exhibition.

The German Consul General, Holger Ziegeler, said: “By bringing the most creative minds of different countries together, we see how quickly they understand each other and spur each other on. They benefit mutually from the values, experiences and dreams of their peers.”

Kalnoky said: “I am surprised by the vitality and curiosity of the artists and the vibrant art scene in Saudi Arabia. The exchange with the Saudi artists was an enriching experience.”

A visitor to the exhibition, Abdul Aziz Al-Ghamdi, told Arab News: “I am amazed at this year’s exhibits. I come here each year. I like the diversity of art here.”

Al-Ghamdi, a law student, said he had started a project to promote Saudi Arabia’s little-known artists by collecting their social media accounts and artworks and presenting them in a single Instagram account.

Saleh Al Shehri, a Saudi fine artist who visited the exhibit, said: “The way that the artists applied their ideas on reality here is breathtaking. The selection of artists in this year’s exhibition is excellent.”

“Refusing to Be Still” is taking place in locations across Jeddah, including Gold Moor mall, Serafi mall and King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC), and is open daily from 5-10 p.m. until May 5.


Emirati artist Farah Al-Qasimi’s first solo US show set to open

Farah Al-Qasimi’s ‘Living Room Vape’ (2017). (Supplied)
Updated 16 July 2019
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Emirati artist Farah Al-Qasimi’s first solo US show set to open

DUBAI: Emirati artist Farah Al-Qasimi’s first solo exhibition at a US institution is set to open on July 30 at the MIT List Visual Arts Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Working in photography, video, and performance, Al-Qasimi’s work explores themes of gender, nationality and class. Her photographs subvert ingrained expectations of how images are constructed and understood and she is known for borrowing conventions from various sources, including documentary photography and Renaissance paintings.

Um Al Naar (Mother of Fire) (still), 2019. (Supplied)

Camouflage and concealment play a central role in the artist’s work. In a recent series of portraits, Al-Qasimi obscures the faces of her subjects while capturing intimate images, despite the lack of a clear, engaging face. Various compositional strategies hide identifying features — behind plumes of smoke, a well-placed hand, or sumptuously patterned textiles and drapery — while she still manages to accentuate the opulent interiors her subjects inhabit.

Alongside a group of recent photographs, the exhibition will include a screening of Al-Qasimi’s new film, “Um Al Naar (Mother of Fire)” (2019), which was recently unveiled at Art Basel Statements.

M Napping on Carpet, 2016. (Supplied)

The 40-minute video is structured like a television documentary following a jinn — a ghost-like entity in Islamic tradition. Delivering a confessional, reality TV-style monologue, the jinn appears on camera beneath a patterned sheet. The video interweaves her thoughts on centuries of Portuguese and British colonial meddling in the modern-day emirate of Ras Al-Khaimah in the UAE. The video also explores the influence of the European presence in the region and the use of Euro-centric practices for the display of historical artifacts.

Curated by Henriette Huldisch, the director of exhibitions at the MIT List Visual Arts Center, the exhibition marks the first time Al-Qasimi’s work has been shown in a solo exhibition in the US — it is set to wrap up on Oct. 20.  

The artist lives and works between New York and Dubai and has seen her work exhibited in The Third Line gallery in Dubai, Jameel Arts Centre in Dubai and the San Francisco Arts Commission, among other locations.

Al-Qasimi received her MFA from the Yale School of Art and has participated in residencies at the Delfina Foundation in London; the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine; and is a recipient of the New York NADA Artadia Prize and the Aaron Siskind Individual Photographer’s Fellowship.