Ancient and modern attitudes collide in the work of Saudi artist Ahaad Alamoudi

Rising Saudi artist, Ahaad Alamoudi
Updated 27 February 2018
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Ancient and modern attitudes collide in the work of Saudi artist Ahaad Alamoudi

JEDDAH: Ahaad Alamoudi is a rising star in the world of Saudi art. Her latest work, Those Who Do Not Know of Falcons Grill Them, is on show now in Jeddah as part of Refusing to Be Still, the fifth edition of 21,39, an annual exhibition at the forefront of the country’s contemporary art scene.
Jeddah-based Alamoudi was born in 1991 to a family of artists.
“My mother is an artist, so I grew up surrounded by art and I realized very early on that I wanted to create art,” she said. “I did my bachelor’s degree in visual communication at Dar Al-Hekma University, here in Jeddah. Then I got my master’s in fine arts from the Royal College of Art in London.”
During her studies, her art began to evolve as she realized she needed to develop a focus in her work.
“In the beginning I just started by constantly producing work but I didn’t see it having any defined links,” said Alamoudi. “If there was a topic that I wanted to address, I would produce an artwork about it. That made me feel like my work wasn’t representing something specific because I use different mediums and talk about different topics. I felt like I didn’t have a defined position as an artist and I needed to grow.
“What was interesting for me is that I was able to refine my practice during my fine art master’s program. I was able to see more clearly the links within my body of work – and now I see my work as a form of anthropology, studying the ethnography and culture of my country and society. My work also helped me identify with my national identity on a more profound level.”
This evolution led her to the current focus of Alamoudi’s work, exploring the links between the ancient and modern.
“I use ethnographic methodologies to study the outlets of internet integration in Saudi Arabia,” she said. “A new global thought is emerging on the internet and is impacting on a culture that is deeply rooted in traditions and customs.
“My main focus is the manifestation of Saudi pop culture on social media, and the generated images that emerge from that space. Funny or dramatic viral videos and songs are not in any way truths about culture but people today have such strong connections to the symbolism within them – and that’s what my work studies.
“I gather and examine mass-media products generated by the Kingdom. These are personal videos that have been altered and stripped of their own form. Through their continued use as viral videos they become artifacts that define current Saudi culture.”
Alamoudi’s work on show at the 21,39 exhibition is a 7-minute presentation incorporating video, sound, sand and organic material. It explores the progression, evolution and speed of change that are part of the process of realizing a new vision for the country and the changing social landscape. She uses images of falcons as a symbolic reference to the co-existence of traditional and modern attitudes.
“Those Who Do Not Know of Falcons Grill Them is a commentary on the constant progressive changes that are occurring around me,” she said. “It’s about the formation and reformation of my country and society.
“I view change as a positive thing but a part of me wants to slow it down and see how communities are affected.”
While she has clearly put a lot of thought and meaning into her work, Alamoudi is reluctant to spell it all out to viewers, instead preferring that they form individual interpretations and find their own meaning.
“To me, the work is more of an emotional experience, so I let it be,” she said. “I let them experience it guided by their own experiences. Whether they love it or hate it, it triggers an emotion in them and that’s what art is for.”
Alamoudi this year started teaching in the Visual Communication faculty at Dar Al-Hekma, the same university from which she graduated.
“I went from being a student in the Visual Communication department to becoming a part of the faculty and it’s a really strange and amazing experience,” she said. “But I still see them as my teachers.
“The most important thing I teach to my students about art is that they have the space to share their ideas and thoughts and that there’s nothing wrong with that.”
Alamoudi would like to see more investment in art education in Saudi Arabia, but points out that this if not the only way for artists to grow and develop.
“I think there’s a necessity and a responsibility on communities and governments to invest in art education,” she said. “That being said, I don’t think that a formal education in art is a prerequisite to becoming an artist – but it does inform the way we reflect on our cultural identity.”
In another sign of her growing reputation, Alamoudi’s work will be on show at the 12th edition of the highly regarded Art Dubai event next month.
“This year will be the first time I get to participate with my artwork in Art Dubai and I’m really proud of that,” she said.
Ultimately, she believes there should be one priority above all when creating art.
“Having fun with the work,” she says. “If I’m not having fun creating then there’s nothing in it for me. I use a lot of comedy in my work as a form of addressing serious topics.”
* 21,39’s Refusing to Be Still exhibition continues until May 5, 2018. Visit www.21-39.com for venues and more details. Art Dubai takes place from March 21 to 24, 2018. Visit www.artdubai.ae.


REVIEW: 'Stranger Things' season three

Finn Wolfhard (Mike Wheeler), Caleb McLaughlin (Lucas Sinclair), Charlie Heaton (Jonathan Byers), Sadie Sink (Max Mayfield), Noah Schnapp (Will Byers), Natalie Dyer (Nancy Wheeler) and Millie Bobby Brown (Eleven/Jane Hopper). (Netflix)
Updated 21 July 2019
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REVIEW: 'Stranger Things' season three

  • Hit series returns, funnier and freakier

DUBAI: Netflix’s “Stranger Things” crossed the line from hit series to cultural phenomenon pretty early on with its mix of Eighties nostalgia, sweetly humorous kids-coming-of-age story, sci-fi thrills and genuinely spooky scenes.

After a second season that brought a darker, more dangerous vibe but lost some of the fun, showrunners the Duffer Brothers seem to have struck a better balance between the two in the third season, released last week.

Set in the summer of 1985, the central gang of kids: Mike Wheeler, Will Byers, Lucas Sinclair, Max Mayfield, Dustin Henderson and telepath Eleven (or El — or Jane Hopper as she’s now the legal adoptive daughter of Sherrif Jim Hopper) are on school vacation, and it’s that awkward summer when the boys start to take more interest in girls than in Dungeons & Dragons, much to Will’s chagrin. Mike and Lucas are (at the start of the series at least) bumbling their way through relationships with El and Max respectively. The Duffers mine these awkward ‘first-love’ scenarios for rich humor and some genuinely touching moments, as well as some realistic takes on how the complications of love interests affects the tight-knit gang of boys we met in the first series. And of how they enable Max and El to bond. It’s great to see El relax into hanging out with her first real girlfriend (in the platonic sense).

There’s plenty of humor too in the double-act of Dustin and Steve Harrington — formerly the high-school heartthrob, but now struggling to retain his ‘cool’ edge while working in an ice-cream parlor in the town’s new social hotspot, the Starcourt Mall. New arrival Robin is his co-worker — and thorn in side, constantly puncturing his ego.

Of course, there’s a darkness stirring too. The sinister, otherworldly monster defeated by El at the end of season two is not, it seems, as gone as everyone thought. Strange power fluctuations trigger Will’s awareness of his nemesis, and the kids quickly realize that their summer holidays aren’t going to be as carefree as they’d hoped. There’s the issue of exploding rats, for starters, and Max’s older brother, Billy, is acting very, well, strange.

Everything that made “Stranger Things” so wildly popular, then, is still in place, including stellar performances from the ensemble cast and the eye-catching attention to Eighties pop culture (new Coke, Phoebe Cates and Ralph Macchio, for example), to — of course — the unsettling notion of something very wrong happening just beneath Hawkins’ shiny, happy surface.