One Saudi woman’s visual Journey of Belonging

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Updated 23 January 2013
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One Saudi woman’s visual Journey of Belonging

Manal Al Dowayan’s first solo exhibition in the Kingdom has been a long time coming. And when her exhibition finally opened last weekend at Athr Gallery, it deservedly received wide acclaim and excitement, especially among the art enthusiasts who have been following her work outside the country. 
The photographer’s solo exhibition titled ‘A Journey of Belonging’ displays collections of old and new works produced between 2009-2012: “The state of disappearance”, ”If I forget you, don’t forget me”, “We had no shared dreams”, ”Landscapes of the mind”, ”Pointing to the future”, and “Look beyond the veil”.
“The state of disappearance” is the artist’s personal investigation into the portrayal of Saudi women in the printed media and newspapers in particular; expounding on the misrepresentation of a large section of Saudi women who are typified shrouded in veils.
A glass-enclosed newspaper spread to the sharp eye reveals the same recurrent photograph, which appeared repeatedly in publications under different contexts. 
Al Dowayan obsessively gathered this collection of newspaper clippings, painstakingly over a period of two year, to accentuate the abject stereotyping of Saudi females, which according to the artist do not represent the individual Saudi woman.
This may in fact be an ironic attempt by the system to preserve what seems to be a losing endeavor. 
Borrowing archaic words not currently used in contemporary language from the ancient book “Jurisprudence of a Language: The Secrets of Arabic”, penned in the 10th century by Abu Mansour Al-Tha’alby Al-Naysaboury, she places words across images of women as presented in the media, thereby staging a parody and creating an obvious conflict with the play of words and images.
“If I forget you, don’t forget me” is a visual recreation of her late father’s collective journey at Aramco, along with other families who worked together in the oil business; a testament to the realization of dreams with the creation of an oil wealthy Saudi Arabia. 
This collection is a photographic reconstruction of the past drawn from the longing to reconcile the present with an un-visited future. The inconsistent placement and juxtaposition of odd objects found at her father’s office, thrown together in a quiet arrangement, tells stories, speaks of memories and exhibits pride toward the shared achievements of a generation gone by.
“We have no shared dreams” is a personal investigation into the schizophrenic relationship between the urbanite and the city. It is a conversation with a city that responds in silent indifference to the frustrated plea of its inhabitants. The collection of photographs largely shot on rooftops and in moving cars, draws its subjective premise from the expectations of a city dweller seeking to understand, accept and achieve his/her goals through the city’s landscape.  
“Landscapes of the mind” battles the concept of space and geography, boundaries and backdrops in the context of personal symbolism. The artist plays the role of observer, director, informer and participant in perceiving the interplay of space with self.
It is the excavation and understanding of the space one belongs to and yet must remain apathetic with. This particular collection is Al Dowayan’s most defining work that sets the tone for her visual precept in exploring spatial relationships whether in time, space or context in her following works.
“Pointing to the future” and “Look Beyond the veil” are older works by the artist that address the status of women as integral participating members of the Saudi society, questioning the validity of traditions wrongly spangled with religion and cultural discourse that limit the potential of women. 
The fabric and spirit of the female presence is examined and re-iterated through expressions of bold presence, dreams, beauty, and found and unfound freedoms.
The exhibition ‘A Journey of Belonging’ will continue until Feb.16 at Athr Gallery.

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Monet sister Vetheuil paintings reunited in the US for first time

Updated 21 May 2018
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Monet sister Vetheuil paintings reunited in the US for first time

WASHINGTON: For the first time since they were painted more than a century ago, two oil paintings of Claude Monet’s garden in Vetheuil have been reunited, in Washington.
Monet moved to this village in the Paris suburbs in 1878 with his sickened wife Camille and their two young children as they faced financial difficulties, along with the family of one-time patron Ernest Hoschede.
The period that ensued was one of the most prolific for the French Impressionist, who produced in just three years nearly 300 paintings, including “The Artist’s Garden at Vetheuil” (1881).
Until August 8, the National Gallery of Art is presenting two of four known works of this lush summer scene with huge sunflowers, including its own, larger piece and another temporarily on loan from California’s Norton Simon Museum.
“It’s a turning point in terms of his career, his struggles, he’s turning more toward landscape, he’s becoming more interested in atmospheric effects,” National Gallery curator of 19th century French paintings Kimberly Jones said in an interview.
The Norton Simon’s version, believed to have served as a model for its companion, is more heavily worked in most areas.
“Before these two pictures were together, we always described the handling of this one as quite loose because we didn’t have another example, and we had always believed ours was a study for the larger picture,” said Norton Simon assistant curator Emily Talbot.
“All of the things that have been published about these two pictures we’re starting to question just by having them in the same space.”
Where Monet layered meridian green thickly on top of cobalt blue to give more interest to the sky in the Norton Simon’s picture, in the companion piece it’s defined instead by contrasts of thick and thin, and patches of exposed canvas ground.
The National Gallery’s senior conservator of paintings Ann Hoenigswald spent months removing a discolored natural resin varnish from the museum’s masterpiece that had flattened the work visually.
“The minute I got the varnish off, it just soared,” she said.
“What I find really exciting is the energy of the brushwork. You see the richness of the impasto and the speed at which he moves his brush across, and all the bristles of the brush, or a little lip of paint that just comes straggling there.”
It was not until almost 10 years later, in 1890, that Monet began painting formal series each comprised of dozens of works depicting a single subject — the Rouen Cathedral, London’s Houses of Parliament or water lilies — at different seasons or times of the day usually from the same vantage point.
The garden proto-series “could be the germ of an idea that’s just starting to develop in his mind,” said Jones.