Japanese artist inspired by brush with Al-Ula ‘rock stars’

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‘Untitled’ painting inspired by Al-Ula. (Photo/Supplied)
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Japanese artist Takashi Murakami with RCU’s Nora Al-Dabal. (Photo/Supplied)
Updated 02 June 2019

Japanese artist inspired by brush with Al-Ula ‘rock stars’

  • The painting will be on display at the “Murakami vs Murakami” exhibition at Hong Kong’s Tai Kwun Center for Heritage and Arts

RIYADH: From the star-studded lineup at the Winter at Tantora concert series to the thousands who visited the Mada’in Saleh archaeological site, Saudi Arabia’s historic Al-Ula city has enjoyed plenty of attention in the past year.
Now Al-Ula’s majestic beauty has inspired a tribute by world-renowned Japanese artist Takashi Murakami, who recently created a stunning piece of artwork following a visit to the region in March 2019.
After witnessing the area’s dramatic scenery, Murakami said he felt “immediately compelled to create something.”
The result was a massive painting, “Untitled,” which covers an entire wall at Murakami’s latest exhibition in Hong Kong.
Featuring blue and red shapes against a cream-colored background, the painting brings to mind the striking shapes of Al-Ula’s rock formations, but also incorporates sketches of the distorted, anime-looking creatures that feature heavily in Murakami’s work.
Stylized photographs of Al-Ula’s landscape accompany the exhibit along with explanations about the painting and the inspiration behind it.
“I was exploring and searching for a source of new ideas when I visited the strange rock formations of Al-Ula. Fascinated by the encounter, I snapped countless photos with my phone,” one of Murakami’s captions reads. “My brain started to veer toward the questions of infinite time, mathematical universe and universal providence.”
“These numerous rocks with artistic forms are truly a marvel of nature,” reads another.
“I can deeply sympathize that human beings were driven to carve out the many sites in this miraculous space of beauty created by nature,” reads a third caption.
Nora Al-Dabal, arts and culture engagement manager at the Royal Commission for Al-Ula, said: “We are incredibly proud that Murakami chose Al-Ula as the inspiration for his artwork. He is the first international artist to exhibit a major artwork responding to his experience of this vast and extraordinary landscape.”
“Murakami chose the rock formations of Al-Ula as his focus — what he aptly calls ‘a great motif’ of the landscape,” she said. “Over thousands of years, this rock topography has served as geologic canvases for ancient civilizations who made their mark on the land through elaborate carvings. We are excited for visitors to his retrospective show to view it for the first time.”
Although this is not the first time the rocks have inspired great artworks, Murakami’s unique style offers a new perspective on the landscape.
The painting will be on display at the “Murakami vs Murakami” exhibition at Hong Kong’s Tai Kwun Center for Heritage and Arts. More than 60 paintings and sculptures are featured in the exhibition, which will run until Sept. 1.

First group of Sri Lankan Muslims begin Hajj journey

Updated 17 July 2019

First group of Sri Lankan Muslims begin Hajj journey

  • 4,000 to partake in this year’s pilgrimage after Saudi Arabia increased quota

COLOMBO: Nearly 180 Sri Lankan Hajj pilgrims left for Saudi Arabia on Monday night, but not before thanking the Kingdom for the comprehensive facilities offered to them.

Mohamed Hashim Mohamed Haleem, Sri Lanka’s minister of postal services and Muslim religious affairs, said that this year’s issuing of Hajj visas was smooth due to the new e-Hajj services introduced by the Saudi government. 

“We were able to process all 4,000 Hajj visas efficiently. All of them were issued well in time,” Haleem said.

He added that officials from his ministry will be available at the airport to assist the pilgrims with their departures.

The minister said the flights of pilgrims this year will be ferried by both Saudi Arabian Airlines and Sri Lankan Airlines. Haleem, who intends to participate in this year’s Hajj, said that the last flight of Sri Lankan pilgrims will leave Colombo on Aug. 7.

Sajjath Mohammed, a journalist from Madawala News, praised the e-Hajj service, saying: “The biometric services for the visas were available to pilgrims in Kandy and Batticaloa in addition to Colombo, the capital of the island.”

Rizmi Reyal, president of the International Airline Ticketing Academy in Sri Lanka, said that this year the Hajj services from Colombo have been enhanced to give a better experience to the pilgrims. He thanked the Saudi government, the Muslim Religious Affairs Ministry in Colombo, the Saudi Embassy in Colombo and the Sri Lankan Embassy in Riyadh for playing their part in these improvements.

The Sri Lankan government will also send a medical team to attend to any urgent needs of the pilgrims before they are taken to the nearest medical facilities in the two holy cities.