Felemban: Meet the ‘aesthetic freak’
Felemban: Meet the ‘aesthetic freak’
At the age of 21, Felemban is no stranger to communicating through art. She began paving her way by learning graphic design at the young age of 13. The more she experienced in life, the more she believed she could use graphic design to express her ideas. Upon graduating high school in 2011, with some summer jobs under her belt and what she calls “freelancing overload,” she realized that she was not able to utilize graphic design in the way she desired. It was not a medium in which she was able to express herself completely nor was she able to create dialogue, objectives she strives to achieve.
As a fresh graduate from high school, and feeling lost when it came to career options, Felemban determined that she should postpone attending university, “I knew for a fact that it was not smart to decide what I wanted to do for the rest of my life at the age of 18.” Her plan was to travel to the United States to pursue a college education after one year of working. Eager to begin her journey, she immersed herself into a new job one week after her high school finals, gaining more experience and honing her skills. Since then, she has devoted her time to her passion for Islamic art, which she explains is due to her constant examination of religion, philosophy, and symbolism.
Needless to say, Basmah never made it across the Atlantic. Instead, she is leaving her mark on Saudi art. In retrospect, she is glad she stayed in Jeddah. Since 2012, she has participated in several exhibitions locally as well as internationally. Her debut, titled Jeem, was a part of Journey To The Heart Of Islam: Haj Exhibition at the British Museum in 2012. That same year she also participated in Young Saudi Artists in Jeddah, Loud Art in Alkhobar, and Designed in Riyadh. In 2013, she exhibited in Dubai (A Line In The Sand at Artspace), Sharjah (The Beginning of Thinking is Geometric at Maraya Art Center) Venice (Rhizoma at Edge of Arabia), and Qatar (Show of Faith at Katara). The year 2014 took her to Dubai and Abu Dhabi, as well as her hometown Jeddah (The Language of Human Consciousness at Athr Gallery). Earlier this year, she displayed her art in the exhibit Unity at Quincy House, the residence of the US ambassador to the Kingdom in Riyadh. The exhibit emphasized the shared elements that connect cultures and people together. In addition, it shed a spotlight on the brilliant talent from across the Kingdom such as Felemban. In March, she was one of the 20 Saudi women showcased in the exhibit Anonymous Was a Woman by Hafez Gallery in Jeddah. Yet another opportunity to express her voice and participate in a dialogue.
Not believing in labels or having a restricted attitude in life, she asserts that maybe she will be a teacher or a writer one day. Life can be uncertain; at one point in her life she believed she would always be a graphic designer. However, today she is convinced she will never go back to it, as she explains: “Not even a day in my life.” She elaborated further by saying, “I like to keep open ends in everything and I’m open to new things everyday.” For now, Felemban is focused on her art as well as documenting street art around the Kingdom, “I enjoy how raw and true street art is and decided to do the thing I wanted someone else to do, which is documenting that.”
When it come to support, Felemban expresses how lucky she is for the encouragement she receives from her family. Armed with this support, her passion, and tunnel vision toward her goals, she never heeded any obstacles. Although she admits to occasionally experiencing social anxiety, Felemban also concedes that she transitioned from an “awkward kid” to a “confident young woman” in a relatively short time. This is apparent from the fact that she used to be a timid visitor of events, now she is a featured artist in these events. She attributes her metamorphosis and success to having a straightforward attitude toward her goals.
Felemban’s upfront manner has led her to follow her passion and apply to the Prince’s School of Traditional Arts in London in order to earn a Master’s degree in Islamic and Traditional Art. She has been accepted and plans to attend later this year; “I simply applied to the Prince’s School because I knew I wanted to study something specific and linked directly to what I do. Also, I didn’t want to spend 4-5 years studying generic stuff. I’m very excited!”
Inspiration, according to Felemban, is complex and open-ended, a life long search and collection of moments. It is too simple to list things as inspirational to a person, she asserts. Succinctly, she elaborates: “I think it is just being open to learning about everything. Inspiration is made of small bits that you collect everyday. Once you stop seeking knowledge, you stop getting inspiration.” The process she uses to create her art is similar in the sense that it is complex and continuous, “A bit chaotic but also organized.” Her process entails taking notes and reading daily on methods of exhibiting art, techniques, or even new materials for example. It is her research. Furthermore, she utilizes this research to write and sketch until she is able to draw links between concepts and execution. When asked about the message she conveys through her work, she emphasized that it is truth, “I think we can find it inside of all of us. But we need to learn how to see the truth in things around us first so we can learn the truth in ourselves.”
As an active and thriving member of the Saudi art community, Felemban believes that there are good and bad aspects. The combination is actually contributing to the rapid growth of Saudi art. The downside of this fast pace is that it does not allow enough time for young artists to work on self-growth. In terms of what she foresees for Saudi art, she finds this difficult to answer, as it is not easy to predict the future of course. She hopes, however, that the pace can be reduced in order “to think thoroughly before every step we take.” As for the actual Saudi art scene, she expresses that it is a cooperative environment between the men and women that make it up. With regards to women particularly, she declares, “Women are doing great.”
Felemban’s advice to young people with the desire to pursue artistic endeavors is precisely how she has chosen to conduct herself through out her journey. She advises, “Don’t seek anyone’s approval, be independent and do your own thing, and most importantly do what you love for the right reasons.” Whether she is participating in local or international art exhibits to display her praiseworthy work, or fostering and documenting Saudi street art by providing platforms for such artists, Felemban has proven that she is doing it her way with much deserved success. Be sure to follow Basmah Felemban, the multifaceted, exceptional and dynamic artist at @basmah_felemban and @saudistreetart for a first hand narrative of her journey and work.
Email: [email protected]