Young artists take center stage in Saudi exhibition

It is the 6th edition of Athr Gallery’s ‘In The Midst Of It All.’ (Supplied)
Updated 06 December 2019

Young artists take center stage in Saudi exhibition

  • Highlights from Athr Gallery’s ‘In The Midst Of It All,’ the sixth edition of its exhibition dedicated to showcasing young talent in the Kingdom

 

‘Emotional Metamorphosis’

Aisha Islam

This year’s Young Saudi Artist showcase at Athr Gallery — which runs until December 31 — features 22 artists based in the Kingdom (selected from over 200 applicants) tackling the theme of social change in the country and Saudi identity. Curator Zahra Dar Bundakji says the gallery called on artists to answer the question: “Who are you, in the midst of it all?”

Al-Dahran-based artist Aisha Islam explored connections between identity and wellbeing in her work — a series of x-rays belonging to her late mother onto which Islam has ‘painted’ patterns in henna. “My mother loved henna, it was very ceremonial for her and made her really happy,” Islam told Arab News at the exhibition launch. “Working on this series was my mourning process — accepting the loss and turning something sad into something happier.”

‘The Capable Machine’

Rajaa Al-Hajj

Al-Hajj is a Sanaa-born sculptor and painter whose work, according to the exhibition brochure, “explores art movements such as surrealism and cubism” and “observes striking resemblances between biology and machinery” while “giving body and form to the intangible elements of existence.”

The striking ceramic sculpture she created for “In The Midst Of It All” is an attempt by the artist to examine the impact that “artificial constructs” including borders and power can have on regular people’s ability to proceed with their daily lives. “She redefines authority as merely a position,” the brochure says. “One that can be changed at any given time.”

‘Architecture Light’ series

Feras Nour

The Jeddah-born photographer was an architecture student and that passion has become his main source of inspiration for his work, and the lens through which he scrutinizes social and cultural issues. “Many of his works started to explore subjects of culturalism, displacement and identity,” the brochure states.

The photographs selected for “In The Midst Of It All,” including this one — “Emergence” — focus on the presence of light and how it can alter people’s environment and perception. “Light is able to transform and awaken a building, an object or a material … and bring it to life by giving emotional depth and character regardless of the intensity of the light source,” the artist’s statement says. “It is an ever-changing and moving presence, a reflection of us.”

‘Nobody Asked For Your Opinion’

Hana Kanee

Kanee is a painter and mixed-media artist born in Jeddah whose landscapes and portraits focus on everyday life in the Kingdom, often depicting the clash between modernization and heritage. “Capturing conflict is a recurrent subject for Kanee, be it through depictions of traditional landscapes in Abha or the changes in the region’s urbanization, the relationships between millennials and the generations preceding them, or the struggle to find balance of identity,” the exhibition brochure says.

The three paintings shown here depict “eye rolls and cringes” and are a commentary on “our being receptors of information, and the lack of control over it by way of various intruding forms of media.”

‘Chanting’ (Performance and video installation)

Ftoon Al-Thaedi

Al-Thaedi, a Riyadh-born “cultural mediator and multidisciplinary artist” contributed a video installation and performance piece to the exhibition. “Chanting” aims to “bridge cultural and generational gaps and shift views, as well as break stereotypes about Saudi youth.”

In her performance, the artist created various forms of henna — leaves, bright-green powder, and the brown or black pastes — and smeared them over herself, using natural material “to create layers of (a) new and redefined identity that sits in between the past and the present.”

‘From Within’

Nasser Al-Shemimry

Al-Shemimry is a Jeddah-based sound artist also known as Desertfish. “He creates lush, sonic, and immersive soundscapes” and “focuses on topics such as the realm of human awareness of time, and aims to create a dialogue about the self in relation to the space it occupies.”

For “In The Midst Of It All,” Al-Shemimry created an audio-visual installation that uses infrared sensors to track viewers’ motion so that when they enter the room, a projection is cast on the wall. The work “highlights our spatial awareness,” according to the exhibition brochure.

‘Fake Persian Carpet’

Ibrahim Romman

The Jeddah-born artist and graphic designer relies heavily on research for his artworks, often using found material to create them. “He explores Arab cultural identity” and “questions the influences between East and West.”

In “Fake Persian Carpet,” Romman used imagery from the daily life of his grandmother, replacing her imported carpets with “a bespoke carpet of his own making.” The work was influenced by Romman’s studies on “Arab aesthetics and impressions of opulence, success and ‘culture,’” with particular focus on “notions of Westernized beauty and style standards, as appropriated by Arabs through travel and as diasporas.”

While all the elements in the work are taken from his grandmother’s life and home in Saudi Arabia — patterns from her furniture, the tiles that create the border — all the objects in her home, the artist realizes, are imported. “Which begs the question: What is Saudi aesthetic identity, and where does it come from?”


Alternative artists Freek, Karrouhat drop surprise new singles

UAE-based rapper Freek released a new music video this week. (Instagram/@freektv)
Updated 29 March 2020

Alternative artists Freek, Karrouhat drop surprise new singles

DUBAI: You may be familiar with Freek, one of the biggest Arabic drill artists to come from the region, and this weekend, the rapper unveiled his latest music video for “Mush Fathi” – which means “I’m busy” in Arabic.  

The setting is a roof top, the dress code is luxury streetwear and the message is clear: The artist is indeed busy. 

Between churning out new music, the Somali artist, who was born Mustafa Ismail in the UAE, can be credited for pushing the sub-genre of hip hop, which was popularized by Chicago rapper and Kanye West co-signee Chief Keef, to the forefront in the Arab world. His unique sound, which combines Arabic lyrics with menacing trap-influenced beats, has landed him slots at acclaimed festivals including Sole DXB and the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

In his ongoing pursuit of pioneering the sub-genre of hip hop in the Middle East, he has garnered a legion of fans that extend beyond the Gulf. A quick scroll through the YouTube comment section of his widely-viewed music videos reveals a following that encapsulates Libya, Egypt, Sudan, Jordan and even goes as far as Canada.

And Freek wasn’t the only UAE-based artist to drop a new music video this week. Kuwait-born DJ and model Basil Al-Hadi, who goes by the moniker Karrouhat, also treated his fans to a surprise new musical release. The DJ posted the clip for “Nefsi Aghaneelik” on YouTube on Saturday.