RIYADH: Artists from the region have been exhibiting their work in Diriyah’s Industrial Zone as part of the area’s transformation, and the first step to creating a contemporary arts area on the outskirts of Riyadh.
“From Within,” which was inaugurated earlier this month by the Kingdom’s Deputy Minister of Culture Hamid bin Mohammed Fayez, features work by artists from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries.
The paintings, installations and sculptures deal with the relationship between man and architecture, and how one can affect the other.
“Stripped Away from All Constructs,” by Emirati artist Afra Al-Dhaheri, is a piece of fabric coated in cement that hangs from the wall between two pieces of steel. It explores a romanticised debate of love and hate for the act of demolishing architecture. The cement lines act as a blueprint on the surface of the fabric. The cotton mesh fabric is normally used as reinforcement in construction but, by suspending architectural material from two points and allowing it to drape down as if it were made only of fabric, it becomes an imaginative way of removing a building’s structure.
The installations of Saudi-born conceptual artist Ayman Zedani renegotiate the relationship between the human and non-human, animal and plant, organic and inorganic, land and water.
“The Old Ones,” which is on display at Diriyah Industrial Zone, highlights the consumption of nature in the Gulf. Visitors experience a landscape from a fourth-dimensional perspective, a fictional representation of an ancient land where the desert used to be greener and more vibrant. The project, in part, is homage to the lands that made the Gulf what it is today. On the other hand it is also an attempt to encourage a healing process for its inhabitants.
In the corner of the exhibition, Aziz Jamal’s “Vacant” sits as a collection of dyed cement forms, cast in a variety of objects collected by the artist.
The Saudi artist’s work was fueled by contemplations on discarded items in urban landscapes. The common understanding of space is limited to the space the objects occupy and never encompasses the negatives they accidentally design. The inner crevasses and outlines of things create an almost negative and neglected area of being in an urban landscape, with his work celebrating the neglected.
Bu Yousuf takes a radical approach to the concept of skyscrapers that decorate the Gulf’s skylines and represent its economic progress. “The Nursery” consists of a hospital unit for skyscrapers that is fitted out as a nursery. The babies are skyscrapers made of silicone, referencing contemporary buildings from the artist’s native Dubai. It is an imaginary world where the infant “buildings” need constant care and attention to grow into stable structures.
The performance aspect of the piece is composed of nurses who are trained to take care of the babies. The artist estimates that the babies were born at 40 weeks and are stable, meaning they can breathe on their own and maintain a regular body temperature, as opposed to premature skyscrapers who require more assistance. His work is a commentary on the need to incubate the different buildings of Dubai and give them the care that meets their needs.
Donia Al-Shetairy presents an installation called “The Cradle of Civilization” which consists of balls inside a hollow space. It turns into a livelier work when light is shed on its moving shadows. The artist expresses human adaptation, the relationship between culture and civilization, and the environment that embraces them.
“From Within” reveals the creative capacities of Saudi and other regional artists, allowing them to showcase their talent as well as helping them to reach a greater number of art enthusiasts and industry practitioners.
It is also part of an initiative designed to achieve goals in the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform program. “From Within” runs until Dec. 26.