Saudi artists on show in Sharjah 

Saudi artists on show in Sharjah 
Mohammed Saleem, Abstract Figure, 1997. (Supplied)
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Updated 27 October 2023
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Saudi artists on show in Sharjah 

Saudi artists on show in Sharjah 
  • Artworks from the Kingdom form part of the Barjeel Art Foundation’s latest show 

DUBAI: A new exhibition at Sharjah Art Museum in the UAE called “Parallel Histories” showcases 124 artworks from the Barjeel Art Foundation, known for championing Arab art. The show, which runs until spring next year, includes paintings, drawings, sculptures and tapestries. Featuring near-equal representation of female and male artists, some works are being shown for the first time in Sharjah.  

According to the foundation, the show’s title “references the manifold socio-political events that occurred in the region across the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. While the multiple histories and diverse experiences encapsulated by works on display were often separated by geography, personal circumstance, national borders, political climate, and various conditions of life, they — like parallel lines — often ran alongside one another, replacing each other with time.” 

A variety of themes are examined, from political conflict to questions of identity. “We hope that the exhibition will inspire viewers to look at the region’s history with fresh eyes, and question how events of the past have shaped, and continue to shape, our reality today,” curator Suheyla Takesh tells Arab News.  

Below, we look at the Saudi artists’ works shown in the exhibition. 

Abdulhalim Radwi 

‘Palestine’ 

A key topic explored in the show is “ongoing political strife, including the question of Palestine for example, and Arab solidarity with the ongoing plight of Palestinian people,” Takesh explains. This painting by the late Makkah-born artist, from 1962, features resistance fighters — some of whom are holding slingshots, while others are about to throw rocks. A figure on the left cries, “God is greater.” Radwi was one of the first artists from the Kingdom to receive a grant from the government to study abroad. His other work often incorporated elements of Saudi desert life, architecture, and folklore.  

Abdulsattar Al-Mussa 

‘Fishermen’ 

During the 1970s, Al-Mussa travelled to Russia to pursue medical studies. But his long-standing interest in the arts meant he changed tack, eventually obtaining an art degree in Moscow, where he took part in his first exhibition. He later moved to Ukraine, where he reportedly made his first mural. Al-Mussa is known for carving everyday scenes onto cardboard, as seen in this solemn black-and-white piece from 1988. According to a statement from Hafez Gallery, he created “drawings of cafés and their employees, as well as the vitality with which they are doing their jobs.” 

Mohammed Al-Saleem 

‘Abstract Figure’ 

Al-Saleem was born in the northern town of Marat in 1939, and was one of Saudi Arabia’s most prolific artists in the Sixties and Seventies. He was reportedly the first to stage an exhibition in Riyadh (in 1967). As a young man, Al-Saleem was educated by Egyptian tutors, who inspired his interest in calligraphy. Al-Saleem had a deep affinity with the desert. He coined the term ‘horizonism,’ depicting evocative Saudi landscapes that also incorporated abstract Arabic calligraphy.” This 1997 work is a prime example of that style.  

Manal AlDowayan 

‘The Emerging #6’ 

AlDowayan’s work often focuses on her fellow countrywomen and the effects on them of the social and cultural transformation the Kingdom has undergone over the past few years. One of her recent motifs is seen in this 2021 work: bent women’s legs. “The Emerging #6” represents “a statement directed at women as they enter the public sphere in Saudi Arabia today,” according to a text published by Art Basel. “In this painting AlDowayan uses the representation of women legs that appear to emerge from the floor. These legs have not fully emerged, just slightly, but they seem ready to kick out to jump through.” 

Nasser Al-Salem 

‘Whoever Obeys Allah, He Will Make For Them A Way Out’ 

Al-Salem is a multidisciplinary artist and architect, who works with neon lights, painting, and sculpture. The written word, especially that pertaining to religion, is at the heart of his practice. “Although you could say my work is very much inspired by my religion, I by no means have a specific audience, and hope that my messages have a spiritual or historical significance for everyone,” he has said. This sculptural work features the title phrase arranged in an abstract form (in Arabic), making the work look like a maze. 

Samer Tabbaa

 

‘Untitled VII’ 

Tabbaa was born in the mountainous Saudi city of Taif. Like many of his contemporaries, he was inspired by the vast openness and mysticism of the desert. “He employs geometry in composing his three-dimensional work, of which ‘Untitled VII’ is a telling example,” notes Takesh. “Taking the shape of upward arrows on one side, and downward ones on the other side, the work resembles a dynamic architectural element, or a stylized totem pole. Set within a group of architecturally-inspired works at the Sharjah Art Museum, it engages in conversation with paintings that tackle the subjects of geometry and space.” 

Alia Ahmad 

‘The Shadow’ 

In this 2021 artwork, Ahmad uses muted tones to create a painting that, according to Takesh, “resembles a tapestry or work on fabric, accentuating a possible reading of it as a mirage or illusory scene.” In her artist’s statement, Ahmad writes that she has been “influenced by an upbringing in Riyadh’s industrial/desert landscape. A majority of my paintings represent different placid dreamscapes, with linear impressions of the Saudi landscape.” Takesh adds that Ahmad “weaves together notions of memory, place, and landscape. . . Her work vividly reflects the ephemeral quality of thoughts, visions, and sensations as translated onto a painted surface.” 


How AI may push the boundaries of creativity in Saudi film industry

How AI may push the boundaries of creativity in Saudi film industry
Updated 24 May 2024
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How AI may push the boundaries of creativity in Saudi film industry

How AI may push the boundaries of creativity in Saudi film industry
  • From generating story ideas to streamlining post-production, artificial intelligence could revolutionize Saudi filmmaking
  • Digital arts expert thinks Saudi filmmakers will use AI for good and noble ends, but recommends they start simple

DHAHRAN: When William “Wink” Winkler of Samford University landed in Saudi Arabia earlier this month for the 10th edition of the Saudi Film Festival, held in Dhahran, he felt he had discovered a new frontier in cinema and technology.

At the invitation of the American Chamber of Commerce and US Consulate in Dhahran, the instructor of digital arts brought with him a wealth of knowledge and experience to conduct a masterclass in artificial intelligence in filmmaking.

However, during his week-long visit, Winkler also gained a fresh perspective on the Saudi film industry, its burgeoning local talent, and how breakthroughs in AI will transform the way movies are made in the Kingdom.

“I learned that the Saudi people are passionate and excited,” Winkler told Arab News. “They can tell amazing stories, original Saudi stories, and as they start to embrace new and emerging technology, that will help them to do that.”

William “Wink” Winkler

AI is still considered an emerging technology, but one that is evolving rapidly. In just the past two years, generative AI programs have progressed from producing janky text and surreal images to creating prose and visuals that could pass as human-authored.

As a giant aggregator of sorts, AI can instantly sift through vast amounts of data in an instant and use existing scripts and screenplays to identify patterns and generate curated story ideas.

While the creative aspect of AI is still imperfect and causes some discomfort among screenwriters, the technology has many other more rudimentary applications in the filmmaking process.

AI could make work easier by automating parts of the filmmaking process that are grueling and time-consuming, says digital arts instructor William “Wink” Winkler. (Supplied)

In pre-production, for instance, AI can help streamline location scouting by analyzing images and videos in real time to suggest settings based on a prompt. It can also cut casting time by instantaneously analyzing audition tapes to identify which actor best fits a particular character.

Post-production is another area where AI will transform filmmaking by using automated editing tools, which can analyze footage and accurately suggest instant edits based on factors like composition and pacing.

It can also assist with traditionally manual tasks, such as color grading, sound design, and visual effects.

DID YOUKNOW?

• AI can sift through vast amounts of data in an instant and use existing screenplays to generate story ideas.

In pre-production, AI could help streamline location scouting and cut casting time by analyzing footage.

In post-production, AI could automate editing and assist with color grading, sound design, and visual effects.

Many filmmakers already use computer-generated imagery — or CGI — to digitally create an asset, character, or effect that was not caught on camera. This advancement has thereby automated parts of the process that were often grueling and time-consuming.

CGI has also benefited from recent AI advancements with more curated algorithms that can generate realistic characters and create fantastical environments from thin air, reducing the need for extensive practical effects or location shoots.

However, AI in filmmaking is not without its issues. The tool will undoubtedly negate many jobs in the industry, while machine-generated stories might seem inauthentic, lacking in depth, relatability, and human spirit.

AI art by Omar Alabdulhadi

“Films invoke emotion, and they can create feelings because they’re told from a human story,” said Winkler. “And humans have felt feelings and have dealt with real human problems. And the computer hasn’t.

“All it can do is read what has been written and repeat it, but it doesn’t actually know what to say, or how to convey it. It can only try to replicate what a human said before.”

There are also ongoing concerns about data protection and bias in AI algorithms — something that has been an issue for social media for some time, as the algorithm merely mimics what already exists.

William “Wink” Winkler along with fellow US expert Travis Blaise who flew in to Dhahran to conduct workshops for the Saudi Film Festival. (AI art by Omar Alabdulhadi)

AI systems have a tendency to perpetuate and amplify demographic and racial biases. This can lead to discriminatory outcomes that are not inclusive, such as only generating characters it deems conventionally beautiful — oftentimes slim, blonde, and light-skinned.

Another consideration is the ethics of plagiarism, as AI pulls from existing works created by humans and generates an entirely new work without providing credit.

To manage the potential for plagiarism and the amplification of harmful biases by AI systems and those employing them, Winkler believes a thoughtful discussion leading to robust regulation is required.

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This section contains relevant reference points, placed in (Opinion field)

“There’s always going to be evil people. We can fight it, just like we’ve always fought it — through rules and regulations,” he said.

“I think that creating communities and discussions at small local levels — to larger governance levels — creates some guardrails around what’s happening. The more ethical, morally good people get involved to help fight the evil, the better.”

Sora is a groundbreaking text-to-video AI model developed by OpenAI — the firm behind ChatGPT — that takes written prompts and converts them into dynamic videos.

The technology can instantly generate high-quality videos with detailed scenes and complex camera movements — with just a few written descriptions.

Surreal AI art collage by Saudi creator Omar Alabdulhadi. (Supplied)

There are concerns, however, about the potential misuse of programs like Sora to create “deepfakes” — digital forgeries that take a human likeness and fabricate images of them saying or doing things that never happened in reality.

These fabricated images can look and seem so realistic that it can be difficult to distinguish between what is real and what is not. Besides the obvious reputational risks, such deepfakes could also undermine trust in institutions and even lead to conflict.

In the film world, such technology could also cost jobs. Why would studios hire human actors if the AI can make their digital likeness do and say anything without rehearsal — performing better than the original, perhaps?

This image, which is part of the "Salt" short-film series by Fabian Stelzer and was created via Stable Diffusion. (Supplied)

Winkler believes Saudi filmmakers will use AI for good and noble ends — but recommends they start simple.

“I think the place that I would start is actually not in AI,” he said. “Start with a journal and a piece of paper and a pen — and document. Get the stories from your mother, your grandmother, your grandfather, your great-grandmother and your great-grandfather.

“Everyone’s ancestors have done amazing things, and that should be documented and shared.”

Surreal AI art collage by Saudi creator Omar Alabdulhadi. (Supplied)

One Saudi creator who is dabbling in AI is Dhahran resident Omar Al-Abdulhadi. While he believes AI technology has not yet been perfected, he is keen to see the market thrive and grow in the creative industries.

“All the anti-AI artists will accept the fact that AI is the future,” Al-Abdulhadi told Arab News, acknowledging the seeming inevitability of the technology’s adoption. But, with the right regulation and careful use, it does not have to be bad.

Winkler agrees. Furthermore, he believes the Kingdom is ideally placed to help this emerging industry grow. With such a young population made up of digital natives, Winkler says Saudi creatives can be future leaders in the field.

“The technology is not available right now, but I imagine that it will be very soon,” he said. “I don’t have the team or the time to do it — but maybe the Saudis can do it and change visual effects forever.”

 


Book Review: ‘The Undiscovered Self’ by Carl Jung

Book Review: ‘The Undiscovered Self’ by Carl Jung
Updated 23 May 2024
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Book Review: ‘The Undiscovered Self’ by Carl Jung

Book Review: ‘The Undiscovered Self’ by Carl Jung
  • Loss of personal responsibility, the author suggests, can lead to the rise of mass movements and, ultimately, totalitarianism

“The Undiscovered Self,” written by Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Carl Jung in 1957, delivers a warning about the dangers of modern collectivism, arguing that individuals are increasingly losing touch with their true selves.

Loss of personal responsibility, the author suggests, can lead to the rise of mass movements and, ultimately, totalitarianism. 

The book offers a prescription for individual psychological development and moral autonomy as an antidote to society’s collectivist forces.

Jung explains the structure of the psyche, with the conscious ego and much larger subconscious, which contains universal archetypes, as well as personal complexes and shadows that shape our behavior.

The book emphasizes the importance of understanding and integrating the unconscious rather than just relying on the conscious mind.

Jung also explores the notion of “self,” defining “individuation” as the process of integrating the conscious and unconscious to become a whole, individualized person. 

This requires embracing one’s shadow side and personal complexes, not just the socially acceptable persona. 

True individuality and freedom come from this process of self-discovery and self-realization, Jung believes. 

He encourages individuals to take responsibility for their psychological development, a process that involves introspection, self-knowledge, and a willingness to confront the unconscious. 

For additional reading, I would recommend “The Red Book,” which outlines the development of many of Jung’s major theories. 
 


British directors resign as patrons of London cinema over Israeli film screening

British directors resign as patrons of London cinema over Israeli film screening
Updated 23 May 2024
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British directors resign as patrons of London cinema over Israeli film screening

British directors resign as patrons of London cinema over Israeli film screening
  • Ken Loach, Mike Leigh protest Seret film festival’s links to Israeli Culture Ministry
  • ‘Supernova: The Music Festival Massacre’ covers Oct. 7 Hamas-led attack

LONDON: British film directors Ken Loach and Mike Leigh have pulled out as patrons of London’s Phoenix Cinema in objection to the hosting of an Israeli film festival, The Guardian reported on Thursday.
One of the UK’s oldest movie theaters, Phoenix is set to host a special screening of “Supernova: The Music Festival Massacre” on Thursday as part of the Israeli Seret film festival.
Loach and Leigh independently confirmed their resignations as patrons of Phoenix over the airing of the documentary.
Directed by Yossi Bloch, Duki Dror and Noam Pinchas, “Supernova: The Music Festival Massacre” tells the story of the Oct. 7 Hamas-led attack on the Nova festival in Re’im through the eyes of survivors.
An unidentified number of staff and managers from Phoenix, along with pro-Palestine solidarity groups, have demanded that the movie theater’s management avoid airing the film, over the Seret festival’s links to the Israeli Embassy in London and Culture Ministry.
Demonstrations and counter-protests are expected to take place later this evening in front of the Phoenix Cinema. On Thursday morning, the site was reported to have been sprayed with red graffiti saying: “Say no to artwashing.”
In 2015, dozens of artists and movie directors, including Loach and Leigh, had addressed a letter to The Guardian calling for a boycott of the Seret film festival.
“By benefiting from money from the Israeli state, the cinemas become silent accomplices to the violence inflicted on the Palestinian people. The festival is co-sponsored by the Israeli government via the Israeli Embassy in London, creating a direct link between these cinemas, the festival screenings and Israeli policies,” said the letter.
Loach told The Guardian after resigning: “My resignation as a patron of the Phoenix shows what I think of their decision. It is simply unacceptable.”
In a response to the Guardian, the cinema’s trustees acknowledged the disagreement from “two of our patrons” and said that the board had discussed the hiring of the venue again.
“The board’s conclusion is that for all private hires, including this one, the Phoenix should not aim to censor or veto the content of screenings, provided they are legal and, in this instance, unless we are advised by the police that it would be unsafe to proceed,” a statement said.
The trustees said they made the decision “with an awareness of our status as a charity committed to education through the arts.
“We appreciate that some do not agree with our decision. Despite this, we hope that most people will remain committed to our vision of a vibrant, sustainable and independent cinema in East Finchley for our local community and for London.”
Picturehouse and Curzon, other UK cinema chains, had canceled all Seret screenings over safety concerns.


Cannes fashion highlights: Bella Hadid makes a statement, Mila Al-Zahrani hits the red carpet

Cannes fashion highlights: Bella Hadid makes a statement, Mila Al-Zahrani hits the red carpet
Updated 23 May 2024
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Cannes fashion highlights: Bella Hadid makes a statement, Mila Al-Zahrani hits the red carpet

Cannes fashion highlights: Bella Hadid makes a statement, Mila Al-Zahrani hits the red carpet

DUBAI: US Dutch Palestinian supermodel Bella Hadid made a powerful fashion statement in Cannes, expressing her support for Palestine, while Saudi actress Mila Al-Zahrani stole the spotlight at the 77th Cannes Film Festival in a gown by Syrian designer Rami Al-Ali.

The star, who attended the screening of Kevin Costner’s “Horizon: An American Saga,” dazzled in a strapless, voluminous dress that was cinched at the waist from the designer’s ready-to-wear 2024/2025 collection.

Hadid turned heads with stylish appearances in Cannes too. 

She made a bold statement in the streets of the French city by wearing a red and white dress inspired by the keffiyeh, showcasing her support for Palestine

The supermodel was also spotted in a striking silver dress from the DSquared Fall-Winter 2006 collection for Chopard’s “Once Upon A Time” Gala this week.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Bella (@bellahadid)

She was also seen in a vintage silk yellow Versace minidress at the Hotel Martinez. 

Hadid wore a vintage silk yellow Versace minidress at the Hotel Martinez. (Getty Images)

During her time in Cannes, she was also photographed in a vintage beige low-cut halter neck midi dress, with a plunging neckline, from Gucci’s Spring/Summer 2005 collection. 

Hadid was also photographed in a vintage beige low-cut halter neck midi dress. (Getty Images)

For the “The Apprentice” red carpet, she opted for a sheer halter neck dress from Saint Laurent’s Fall 2024 collection. 

Meanwhile, Arab designers have been dominating the red carpet with their creations worn by celebrities from around the world.

Canadian model Winnie Harlow was spotted on the red carpet of French adventure drama film “Le Comte de Monte-Cristo,” wearing a black lace dress with a mesh train and purple floral details from the Lebanese designer Zuhair Murad’s Fall 2023 collection. 

Murad, the celebrity-loved designer, also dressed Brazilian model Izabel Goulart. She opted for a white chiffon gown with a black lace bodysuit and floral appliques that was also from the couturier’s Fall 2023 collection.

Rami Kadi also made a splash on the red carpet this week with his designs.

He was championed by US actress Loreto Peralta at the same screening as Harlow and Goulart. 

She wore a mauve, off-the-shoulder gown embroidered with three-dimensional flowers from his “Les Miroirs” collection.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Juliana Paes (@julianapaes)

Brazilian actress and model Juliana Paes chose a metallic off-white gown by Emirati designer Hamda Al-Fahim. The dress featured side pleats, sequin detailing and a side-attached train.


Saudi film ‘Norah’ makes history with Cannes Film Festival screening

Saudi film ‘Norah’ makes history with Cannes Film Festival screening
Updated 23 May 2024
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Saudi film ‘Norah’ makes history with Cannes Film Festival screening

Saudi film ‘Norah’ makes history with Cannes Film Festival screening

DUBAI: Saudi film “Norah” had its official screening at the 77th Cannes Film Festival on Thursday, becoming the first film from the Kingdom to screen as part of the official calendar at the event.

The movie, filmed entirely in AlUla and directed by Tawfik Al-Zaidi, is running in the “Un Certain Regard” section of the festival.

The movie is running in the “Un Certain Regard” section of the festival. (AN/ Ammar Abd Rabbo)

The film is set in 1990s Saudi Arabia when conservatism ruled and the prefessional pursuit of all art, including painting, was frowned upon. It stars Maria Bahrawi, Yaqoub Al-Farhan, and Abdullah Al-Satian and follows the story of Norah and failed artist Nader as they encourage each other to realize their artistic potential in rural Saudi Arabia.

“Norah” is in competition with 19 other films from around the world.

The cast, director and CEO and chairwoman of the Red Sea International Film Festival appeared together on the red carpet for French adventure drama film “Le Comte de Monte-Cristo.” (AN/ Ammar Abd Rabbo)

On Wednesday, the cast, director and CEO and chairwoman of the Red Sea International Film Festival Mohammed Al-Turki and Jumana Al-Rashed, respectively, appeared together on the red carpet for French adventure drama film “Le Comte de Monte-Cristo.”

“Norah” was backed by the Red Sea Fund — one of the Red Sea Film Foundation's programs — and was filmed entirely in AlUla in northwest Saudi Arabia with an all-Saudi cast and a 40 percent Saudi crew.