Saudi artist explores ‘A Journey of Belonging’

Updated 15 January 2013
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Saudi artist explores ‘A Journey of Belonging’

Athr Gallery is ushering in the new year with renowned Saudi artist Manal Al-Dowayan’s first solo exhibition in the Kingdom, which kicked off yesterday and runs for a month. The exhibition, entitled “A Journey of Belonging,” introduced the artist’s new work, as well as seminal work from her previous series, in an exploration of her frequent voyages into the past in search of understanding and mutual acceptance.
Photographer, visual poet, and artist Al-Dowayan is one of the most recognized and critically acclaimed new wave of Saudi contemporary artists. She has exhibited globally, from Belgium to Bahrain, and her artwork has been acquired by collections such as the British Museum, Nadour, Barjeel and the Jordan National Museum of Fine Art, amongst many others.
With the intersecting of key works from the artist’s different series under one roof, a pattern emerges, a common thread weaves itself through her works that gradually alters and transforms, but remains unbroken. A journey comes to light. A Journey of Belonging allows the viewer to approach Al-Dowayan’s work from a new perspective. There is a paradigm shift in focus, with controversial issues of women’s rights and identity, normally associated with the artist’s work, fading into the background, and the artist’s personal fears and obsessions coming to the fore.
Specializing in photography, Al-Dowayan’s varied series consistently presents meditations on the complex textures of a paradoxically evolving and traditional society, along with a distinct, deep-rooted sense of personal and collective history. Thus, the exhibited work reveals a young woman’s obsession with preservation and remembrance, and constitutes a fight against rejection and disappearance.
Featured series such as ‘Pointing To The Future’, ‘Look Beyond The Veil’, ‘Landscapes Of The Mind’, ‘And We Had No Shared Dreams’ and ‘Blinded By Tradition’ display the artist’s progression and creative evolution over the years. Through these discrete series of works, Al-Dowayan not only explores the role of women in Saudi Arabia, but also reflects upon a wider reality in which gender equality is symptomatic of power hierarchies, dogmas, interplays with foreign cultures and shifting domestic social attitudes. Whilst her primary medium is photography, series such as ‘Point To The Future’ further demonstrate how the artist amplifies her characteristically monochrome compositions with lyrical visual language.
Another recurring topic in Al-Dowayan’s work is the relationship of the individual to their environment. For instance, Al-Dowayan explores manifestations of progress and change in the physical textures of the country’s geography in ‘Landscapes Of The Mind’, which uses various locations around the country to frame deft, simple glyphs representing the self, and the individual’s relationship with her surroundings. The artist places herself amidst these symbols, relenting her hold upon her own identity and becoming indefinable and ephemeral against monumental natural and urban settings.
Similarly, the series ‘We Had No Shared Dreams’ is a conversation between the inhabitant and the landscape in which she lives, but to which she longs to belong.
‘If I Forget You, Don’t Forget Me’ reflects on the profound shifts in Saudi society over the past fifty years, documenting the rise of the oil industry through the individuals who were there at the start of the oil boom. Al-Dowayan goes beyond a narrative re-telling of contemporary social evolution and instead looks for her own identity and self amidst the turbulent histories of immediately preceding generations, hoping to discover amidst the plenitude of the past, clues and possibilities for the uncertain future.
In her latest body of work, Al-Dowayan continues to explore the practice of preservation via one of the oldest and time-tested means of documentation, language. In particular, Arabic, a language lauded for its beauty and complexity.
Athr Gallery has selected works that show Al-Dowayan’s evolution as an artist, as a Saudi woman and as a lightening rod for sparks and flashes of progress and change within the strictures of her environment. Ultimately, the exhibition gives a unique and candid perspective of the intense and idiosyncratic relationship that exists between a woman and her homeland.


Startup of the Week: Purple Brain to raise media standards

Updated 25 September 2018
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Startup of the Week: Purple Brain to raise media standards

  • Purple Brain is mainly focused into the commercial world, which is tough and competitive, not only here but worldwide

JEDDAH: Purple Brain in Jeddah is a production and content house whose services range from illustration and animation to writing and producing films and commercials.
It was founded in March, 2017 by Otbah Rayess and cofounder Maria Mahdaly after the success of a campaign they have created together, and won awards on “Try Local”, films made in collaboration with Destination KSA. The two realized that there is a high demand for content in the region, and more so now in Saudi Arabia.
Rayess said that Purple Brain was born in line with Saudi Vision 2030. “Purple Brain works closely with a lot of entities to develop beautiful and unique content from Saudi Arabia to the world, which is perfectly aligned with the vision to improve and change the image of the country into a better, more advanced one.
“The company always aims to produce local content with international standards, as we truly believe that this country has so much to offer and so many stories to tell, and we are just here to bridge and connect with the world through stories and visual content,” he told Arab News.
What makes Purple Brain stand out from other media production companies in commercials is their storytelling style.
“Purple Brain is mainly focused into the commercial world, which is tough and competitive, not only here but worldwide. We aim to be known and recognized for our unique storytelling style in commercials. Therefore, we try to always produce content that is story-driven and treated like short narratives. Even if it’s presented in just a picture.”
Purple Brain have participated in the “Colors of Saudi Arabia Forum,” a photo and video contest organized by the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH), and won first place two years in a row for the campaign “Try Local” in 2016 and 2017. “The two winning films highlighted stories of foreigners experiencing both Jeddah and Riyadh through a beautiful, rich and very local journey,” Rayess said.
They have produced a couple of short films. One, “About Her,” is a 15-minute narrative that tells the story of a 60-year-old writer lost between his real world and his fictional world. The film was screened at Warner Bros. Studios in Los Angeles, and also in Jeddah.
Rayess and Mahdaly have also worked on other campaigns for SCTH, and for the Saudi Telecom Company (STC), Nahdi Medical Co. and other clients.
Purple Brain aims to revolutionize and raise standards in media and content in the region.
“We are aiming to produce long narratives and features with very high standards in the near future. Hopefully that would not only get us recognized globally but also have a huge impact on so many lives. We believe that we have a strong, very powerful, tool, and we have to make sure to use it well and help make this world a better place,” Rayess said.
Purple Brain content can been seen at www.purplebrain.co.