LONDON: A Saudi artist has been selected as part of a digital residency program for creatives from the UK and Gulf Cooperation Council member countries.
Alaa Tarabzouni from Riyadh was chosen alongside Ellie Niblock from Northern Ireland, Rawan Al-Mahrouqi from Oman and Alexis Maxwell from England for the ConnectME Summer Residency, run by the Arab British Centre in partnership with the British Council for artists aged 18-30.
The residency is a continuation of the 2019 Making Marks program, originally established to facilitate creativity between artists in the UK and Kuwait.
The residency pairs selected artists to collaborate digitally on projects encompassing anything from augmented reality to film or even live performances, with the only condition being the ability of the public to view them digitally.
Tarabzouni, who will be partnered with Niblock, trained as an architect and focuses her work on urban environments.
Her most recent piece, “Bait Al-Wurud,” was displayed at the Athr Gallery in Jeddah and The Quest for Our Next Concern in Riyadh.
“Being a part of the digital residency is so exciting; the residency comes at a time when it isn’t purely reactive to the physical limitations brought about by the pandemic,” Tarabzouni said.
“Rather, the format for the residency is extremely thoughtful and fits so well with the conscious use of technology to transcend borders and allow for cultural exchange in this time,” she added.
“I’m thrilled at the opportunity to challenge myself and also to be paired with a UK-based artist — it allows for us both to expand our horizons and to explore different mediums in our collaboration.”
The four artists were selected from over 60 applications by a panel that included representatives from the Arab British Centre and the British Council, and was led by project mentor Alfredo Cramerotti, director of the MOSTYN Gallery in North Wales.
Cramerotti will oversee the residency program as the quartet collaborate over the next month, before their creations are displayed on the Making Marks website from Aug. 24.
Al-Mahrouqi, who will partner with Maxwell, is the founder of Makan Studios, a community art school in Muscat.
Al-Mahrouqi focuses her work on social commentary in the Arab world, paying particular attention to the role of religion and the experiences of women.
“I’m really excited and honored to take part in this wonderful opportunity offered by the Arab British Centre and the British Council,” she said.
“What I’m looking forward to the most is learning new skills and interacting with my UK artist peer, and seeing what we come up with. It’s always interesting to see when cultures and experiences collide.”
Al-Mahrouqi has had her work shown in 13 exhibitions in the Middle East and Europe. “Residencies are amazing opportunities for artists to learn and grow and expand their knowledge and expertise. This is my third, and I’m really looking forward to it,” she said.