Swiss artist’s abstract portrait project comes to Ithra

At his Face-O-Mat installation, Swiss-German artist Tobias Gutmann creates abstract interpretations of strangers’ faces using ink and paper. (Supplied)
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At his Face-O-Mat installation, Swiss-German artist Tobias Gutmann creates abstract interpretations of strangers’ faces using ink and paper. (Supplied)
Swiss artist’s abstract portrait project comes to Ithra
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The Face-O-Mat atelier will remain at the Plaza in Ithra for the next two months. (AN photo)
Swiss artist’s abstract portrait project comes to Ithra
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The Face-O-Mat atelier will remain at the Plaza in Ithra for the next two months. (AN photo)
Swiss artist’s abstract portrait project comes to Ithra
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The Face-O-Mat atelier will remain at the Plaza in Ithra for the next two months. (AN photo)
Swiss artist’s abstract portrait project comes to Ithra
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The Face-O-Mat atelier will remain at the Plaza in Ithra for the next two months. (AN photo)
Swiss artist’s abstract portrait project comes to Ithra
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The Face-O-Mat atelier will remain at the Plaza in Ithra for the next two months. (AN photo)
Swiss artist’s abstract portrait project comes to Ithra
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The Face-O-Mat atelier will remain at the Plaza in Ithra for the next two months. (AN photo)
Swiss artist’s abstract portrait project comes to Ithra
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The Face-O-Mat atelier will remain at the Plaza in Ithra for the next two months. (Supplied)
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Updated 24 January 2024
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Swiss artist’s abstract portrait project comes to Ithra

Swiss artist’s abstract portrait project comes to Ithra
  • “I made it quite intentional here because I didn’t want to be the European guy coming here and drawing the people … I felt like I want to take it a step further and actually let people draw each other,” he told Arab News

DHAHRAN: If you visited the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture, or Ithra, during the Beyond Learning Conference this week, you might have seen Swiss-German artist Tobias Gutmann seated at his Face-O-Mat installation, creating abstract interpretations of strangers’ faces using ink and paper.

“With my project, Face-O-Mat, I look into people’s faces. It takes courage to look into someone’s eyes or let someone look into my eyes,” Gutmann said. “How would our world look like if we would take the time to connect through conscious everyday face-to-face encounters?”

Born in 1987 in Wewak, Papua New Guinea, to Swiss-German parents, and having moved to Switzerland at 13, the now 36-year-old Gutmann learned early on that no matter where he was in the world, he could communicate through art.




A participant shows off her drawing at the Face-O-Mat atelier. (Supplied)

The idea of Face-O-Mat was born in Stockholm as part of a class project in one of his two MFA programs. Through deliberate strokes made using a tool resembling a mini rake, Gutmann symbolizes facial features while fully utilizing the negative space on the page.

Once you decide to participate, you sit on a small table facing Gutmann. A cardboard box with a hole in it sits between you two. Some of his “collaborators” speak; others remain silent and let their eyes do the talking. Some stare at him and hold his gaze, while some shyly look away. The main language is the pen, the ink, and the individual’s face.

Since it takes about five minutes to create each drawing, it is a slower process than snapping a photograph.

How would our world look like if we would take the time to connect through conscious everyday face-to-face encounters?

Tobias Gutmann, Swiss-German artist

Gutmann captures a moment by crafting a tangible artwork that holds his interpretation of the expression on a person’s face. The drawings are saddled between playfulness and steady squiggly shapes that represent a person’s features and characteristics. He accents them with a touch of color, such as a splash of red to represent a vibrant lipstick or a dot to show the eye color.

It is estimated that over the years, Gutmann has gazed into the faces of over 5,000 people to draw abstract interpretations of what he sees as he looks into their eyes. Since this project began, he has gained international recognition by providing the Face-O-Mat experiences globally in places such as France, Hong Kong, the US, Portugal, Switzerland, and now, Saudi Arabia.

The plants thriving at Ithra became an inspiration for installation, which was set up with the help of two Saudi artists to help him construct his “garden.”




Gutmann captures a moment by crafting a tangible artwork that holds his interpretation of the expression on a person’s face. (Supplied)

In a statement, Ithra wrote: “At the heart of Tobias Gutmann’s artistic practice lies the creation and investigation of encounters — between people, cultures and environments, but also between what we perceive on the outside and what we feel on the inside.”

Although Gutmann has done this numerous times, the Saudi experience had one unique addition. Cradled within the fortress made of boxes were a dozen tables set up with pieces of paper, paints, and his signature tool so that anyone passing through might attempt to make their own version.

“I made it quite intentional here because I didn’t want to be the European guy coming here and drawing the people … I felt like I want to take it a step further and actually let people draw each other,” he told Arab News.




Visitors to the Face-O-Mat atelier at Ithra are invited to draw each other. (Supplied)

“I wasn’t sure about the culture (in Saudi Arabia) … I wasn’t sure if everyone would actually sit down in front of me and I thought maybe they would sit down next to someone they know. That was the idea of actually creating this activity that could live without me being here.”

After each portrait is finished in the Face-O-Mat experience, he hands it to the person to keep but not before asking if he can snap a photo for his ever-growing digital archive.

One person who had his portrait created was Bader Al-Jenaid, who recently moved back to nearby Bahrain after completing an accounting internship in the UK. Considering a shift in his career to become a football coach and work with children, he stopped by the Ithra building for Beyond Learning to catch a few of the offerings — and to wait in the long line that snaked around the space to have his one-on-one time with Gutmann.




The Face-O-Mat atelier will remain at the Plaza in Ithra for the next two months. (Supplied)

“I’m a curious learner and I came into the Tobias Gutmann installation to get my picture drawn. I feel like the outcome I received made sense in a way … although it’s abstract, I can see myself in the portrait,” Al-Jenaid told Arab News.

While Gutmann was on hand at the center all week long, the father of two was eager to return to his wife and young children in Switzerland. He found his first time in the Kingdom to be filled with warmth and abundant in new Saudi faces he immortalized in ink.

The Face-O-Mat atelier will remain at the Plaza in Ithra for the next two months. People are invited to go there, dip into the ink, and draw what they see in each other to keep the non-verbal conversation going.

If you have had your portrait drawn by him, you are invited to join the thousands of others in his digital community. To scroll through the faces he has drawn, download the free Face-O-Mat app on your smartphone.

 

 


Female entrepreneurs highlight success stories at AmCham Saudi Arabia event in Jeddah

The Women in Business Committee of the American Chamber of Commerce in Saudi Arabia recently organized an event in Jeddah.
The Women in Business Committee of the American Chamber of Commerce in Saudi Arabia recently organized an event in Jeddah.
Updated 21 May 2024
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Female entrepreneurs highlight success stories at AmCham Saudi Arabia event in Jeddah

The Women in Business Committee of the American Chamber of Commerce in Saudi Arabia recently organized an event in Jeddah.
  • The event featured an enlightening panel discussion on women’s empowerment and economic inclusion

JEDDAH: The Women in Business Committee of the American Chamber of Commerce in Saudi Arabia recently organized an event in Jeddah dedicated to honoring the remarkable achievements of female entrepreneurs in the Kingdom.

Maha Al-Juffali, founder, director, and supervising board member of the Help Center, highlighted her journey as an entrepreneur and the establishment of her NGO supporting individuals with intellectual disabilities in Saudi Arabia during a time when their needs were largely overlooked.

She said: “It demanded resourcefulness, innovation, and hands-on engagement at every turn. We overcame challenges, and with the support of my family and friends, we achieved significant progress in reshaping societal perceptions and providing essential support to individuals with disabilities.”

Al-Juffali highlighted the essential ingredients that empower women entrepreneurs to thrive, stating: “It’s about fostering a supportive ecosystem that nurtures their ambitions, providing access to mentorship, networks, and tailored financial instruments. Additionally, it involves changing the narrative and challenging outdated stereotypes by celebrating female role models and showcasing their achievements to inspire others.”

She also emphasized the significance of leveraging the digital revolution, stating: “It is crucial to embrace the opportunities presented by the digital revolution, which have opened unprecedented avenues for women entrepreneurs. Technology has become a great equalizer, enabling individuals with vision and determination to launch and scale businesses.”

The event featured an enlightening panel discussion on women’s empowerment and economic inclusion, moderated by Nora Al-Jindi, director of Dar Al-Hekma University’s marketing program.

Joining the panel were esteemed guests such as Marriam Mossalli, founder of Niche Arabia; Dania Shinkar, founder and creative director of Dania Shinkar Ltd; Jehan Alallah, IT manager at Amazon; and Mohammed Khan, associate professor in the marketing, entrepreneurship, and strategy department at Effat University.

The session delved into a range of topics, including effective scaling strategies, leveraging networks, and attracting investors, offering valuable insights from experienced business leaders. Moreover, the event served as a platform to showcase the exceptional talent, innovation, and resilience of female entrepreneurs who are playing a pivotal role in shaping the business landscape of Saudi Arabia.

Mossalli emphasized the importance of networking and relationships in the Saudi entrepreneurial landscape, saying: “Events like these facilitate networking and relationship-building. Despite the digital advancements and various platforms, it still boils down to who you know. I eagerly anticipate the next one.”

She highlighted the challenges of scaling a business, noting the psychological shift required to delegate responsibilities. “Scaling is the most challenging part, especially when your business is your baby. Delegating and letting go is a psychological change you have to get used to. It’s not about stepping down but about trusting others. Taking risks, like expanding Niche into large events, was scary but necessary. It's about pushing through fear and embracing competition.”

She also commended the government’s efforts in breaking down taboos around working women, calling it “a positive change from the top down.”

For aspiring entrepreneurs, Mossalli advised: “Immerse yourself in the industry you aim to enter. Work in various roles and gain a comprehensive understanding of all aspects of the business before embarking on their entrepreneurial journey.”

Shinkar said: “My involvement in the event centered around fashion female entrepreneurs. The event has been fantastic for networking and raising awareness about female entrepreneurship in Saudi Arabia. The recent reforms under Vision 2030 have provided significant opportunities and support for female entrepreneurs through initiatives, programs, and incubators. These have been invaluable in offering mentorship, funding, and access to trade shows and fashion exhibitions, helping us gain brand exposure regionally and internationally.”

Zeina Alnouri, AmCham Saudi Arabia Jeddah chapter coordinator, emphasized the importance of women supporting each other in business to pave the way for current and future success.

She said: “To excel as women in business, it’s important to work with one another to pave the path for those who are currently working towards their success and those who will come after them. We are proud to have brought together so many influential females from various fields this evening. It is inspiring to witness the accomplishments and experiences of each of our guests, and we eagerly anticipate hosting similar events of this caliber in the future.”

Attendees had the opportunity to engage in networking and knowledge-sharing activities, gaining valuable perspectives on the successes and challenges faced by women in business.


Preservation of heritage and nature top priority for Soudah Peaks project, says head developer

The Soudah Development company plans to rehabilitate about 200 heritage sites within the Soudah Peaks project area.
The Soudah Development company plans to rehabilitate about 200 heritage sites within the Soudah Peaks project area.
Updated 21 May 2024
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Preservation of heritage and nature top priority for Soudah Peaks project, says head developer

The Soudah Development company plans to rehabilitate about 200 heritage sites within the Soudah Peaks project area.
  • Project prioritizes sustainable environmental practices and protection of natural landscapes, cultural heritage and region’s unique architecture, says Daniel McBrearty
  • The project aims to establish a luxurious mountain tourism destination at an altitude of 3,015m above sea level in the Asir region of southwestern Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: The Soudah Development company plans to rehabilitate about 200 heritage sites within the Soudah Peaks project area in Saudi Arabia, and the work will be carried out in ways that preserve the authentic nature and natural splendor of the area, said Daniel McBrearty, the organization’s chief development officer.

The preservation of the sites and the natural landscapes around them is of paramount importance to the company as it undertakes its transformative tourism project, he added.

McBrearty told the Saudi Press Agency: “The Soudah project’s master plan places sustainable environmental practices at the forefront, ensuring the protection of natural landscapes, cultural heritage and the unique architectural style of the region.”

The Soudah Peaks project aims to establish a luxurious mountain tourism destination at an altitude of 3,015 meters above sea level in the Asir region of southwestern Saudi Arabia. In keeping with the objectives of the Saudi Green Initiative, only 1 percent of the 627-square-kilometer project area has been allocated for development.

“We will focus on safeguarding the environment and mitigating climate change impacts,” McBrearty said. “Soudah Development is committed to translating climate ambitions into tangible sustainability efforts aimed at restoring and reviving the area’s exceptional biodiversity.”

Several environmental initiatives are already underway, he said, most notably an afforestation project that aims to plant more than a million trees by 2030, in support of the Saudi Green Initiative and to help offset carbon emissions by 4 percent.

Soudah Development has already planted 165,000 indigenous trees, SPA reported, including species such as juniper, wild acacia, Dodonaea and katam (wild olive). This has taken place in collaboration with the National Center for Vegetation Cover Development and Combating Desertification, to help achieve environmental balance and climate resilience.

And in partnership with the National Center for Wildlife, the company has reintroduced 23 mountain ibexes and 10 idmi, or mountain, gazelles in the past three years, supporting efforts to protect the species from extinction.

McBrearty said that working under the auspices of the Public Investment Fund, the company is leading the development of Soudah Peaks to enhance the Kingdom’s increasingly diverse tourism offerings.

“The luxury mountain resort will feature 2,700 hospitality keys, 1,336 residential units and 80,000 square meters of commercial space across six development zones: Tahlal, Sahab, Sabrah, Jareen, Rijal and Red Rock,” he explained.

“By 2033, the project is projected to create thousands of direct and indirect job opportunities, contribute over SR29 billion ($7.7 billion) to the non-oil GDP (gross domestic product), and attract 10 million visitors annually by 2030, aligning with the nation’s tourism goals.”

Developers say Soudah Peaks will offer a wide range of attractions and activities, including mountain trails, long-distance hiking paths, paragliding, mountain biking, horseback riding and zipline adventures. Nature lovers will be able to immerse themselves in the natural splendor of its attractions, including national parks, biodiversity and agricultural terraces, and indulge in luxurious wellness experiences at eco-resorts, meditation centers and yoga retreats. There will also be an 18-hole golf course atop Soudah mountain, and mild temperatures of around 15 degrees Celsius will allow visitors and residents to enjoy the outdoor pursuits year-round.


Saudi Arabia, Japan leaders exchange views in video summit meeting

Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio held a productive video meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Tuesday. (SPA)
Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio held a productive video meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Tuesday. (SPA)
Updated 21 May 2024
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Saudi Arabia, Japan leaders exchange views in video summit meeting

Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio held a productive video meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Tuesday. (SPA)
  • The crown prince expressed his desire to visit Japan as soon as possible to further strengthen ties with Japan
  • Kishida expressed his wishes for King Salman’s early recovery

TOKYO: Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio held a productive video meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the prime minister of Saudi Arabia, on Tuesday.
Kishida offered his best wishes for King Salman’s health, a gesture that was appreciated by the crown prince.
The crown prince expressed his desire to visit Japan as soon as possible to further strengthen ties with Japan. Kishida expressed his wishes for King Salman’s early recovery and said that he was also looking forward to strengthening the strategic partnership between Japan and Saudi Arabia, according to the foreign ministry in Tokyo.
As the two countries approach the 70th anniversary of their diplomatic relations, the Japanese prime minister expressed his desire to work even more closely with Saudi Arabia. He emphasized the shared goal of realizing peace and stability in the Middle East, a sentiment that was echoed by the crown prince. The leaders agreed to establish a “strategic partnership council” chaired by them to further strengthen bilateral relations.
Kishida expressed gratitude for Saudi Arabia’s stable supply of crude oil to Japan over the years. He also expressed his anticipation for Saudi Arabia to continue playing a leading role in stabilizing the global oil market, including through production increases, a sentiment that was appreciated by the crown prince.
Kishida added that he would like to cooperate in establishing a global supply chain for clean energy, such as hydrogen and ammonia, and promote cooperation in the field of mineral resources while using Japanese technology under the “lighthouse initiative” agreed between the two countries in July last year.
The crown prince said that Saudi Arabia would like to cooperate with Japan in various areas, including clean energy, and the Kingdom remained committed to providing a stable supply of crude oil to Japan.
Kishida expressed interest in creating business opportunities in Saudi Arabia, and making direct investments in Japan in a wide range of fields, including construction, power transmission, hydrogen, digital fields, information and communications technology, space, health, medicine, food and agriculture.
He also said that he would like to work together to achieve an early realization of the Japan-GCC free trade agreement. This agreement, once implemented, will significantly boost trade and investment between Japan and the GCC countries, creating new business opportunities and fostering economic growth. Negotiations are scheduled to resume soon.
The crown prince said that he welcomed the resumption of negotiations for the Japan-GCC free trade agreement and cooperation with Japan in fields beyond energy.
On peace and security, Kishida explained Japan’s diplomatic efforts and contributions in Gaza, including humanitarian aid and diplomatic initiatives. The crown prince said that he envisioned continued cooperation with Japan on diplomatic efforts to realize peace and stability, appreciating Japan’s active role in the region.
Kishida said that he would be pleased to hand over the symbolic “torch” of the expo to Saudi Arabia following Expo 2025 in Osaka-Kansai. This act symbolizes the continuation of the spirit of international cooperation and cultural exchange. He added that he would like to encourage cultural exchanges in entertainment, tourism, academia and football.
The crown prince said that Japan was an outstanding country in terms of culture and that he sought to strengthen cooperation with Japan in this area.
Read More: Saudi, Japan discuss ties at Vision 2030 business forum in Tokyo  


300 tons of Zamzam supplied daily in Madinah

300 tons of Zamzam supplied daily in Madinah
Updated 21 May 2024
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300 tons of Zamzam supplied daily in Madinah

300 tons of Zamzam supplied daily in Madinah
  • To ensure that Zamzam water is safe, a specialized technical staff takes more than 80 samples daily and examines them with the latest equipment

RIYADH: The General Authority for the Affairs of the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque exerts all efforts to provide Zamzam water at the Prophet’s Mosque so that worshippers and visitors can enjoy the blessed water.

The authority supplies 300 tons of Zamzam water, brought daily from Makkah to the mosque in Madinah on bowsers equipped for this purpose, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

To ensure that Zamzam water is safe, a specialized technical staff takes more than 80 samples daily and examines them with the latest equipment.

Meanwhile, Zamazemah Co. and the Coordination Council for Institutions and Companies Serving Domestic Pilgrims (Mutahed) signed a memorandum to provide Zamzam water bottles to domestic pilgrims during Hajj.

Deputy Minister of Hajj and Umrah Dr. Abdulfattah Mashat attended the signing. This agreement aims to ensure high-quality services for pilgrims.


Saudi Arabia a ‘faithful friend’ of Cameroon, says envoy

Cameroon celebrates its national day at a diplomatic event in Riyadh. (Supplied)
Cameroon celebrates its national day at a diplomatic event in Riyadh. (Supplied)
Updated 21 May 2024
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Saudi Arabia a ‘faithful friend’ of Cameroon, says envoy

Cameroon celebrates its national day at a diplomatic event in Riyadh. (Supplied)
  • Cameroon’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia said that cooperation between his country and the Kingdom has “continued to deepen over the decades”

RIYADH: Cameroon has celebrated its national day at a diplomatic event in Riyadh, with the country’s ambassador hailing Saudi Arabia as a “faithful friend.”

Iya Tidjani, speaking at a reception on Monday in the Saudi capital to mark Cameroon’s 52nd national day, said that cooperation between his country and the Kingdom has “continued to deepen over the decades.”

Riyadh Mayor Prince Faisal bin Abdulaziz bin Ayyaf was the guest at the reception, which was attended by diplomats in Riyadh, Saudi officials and businessmen, the Cameroonian community and embassy staff.

“Since 1966, the year of establishment of relations between the two countries, these ties have continued to deepen and diversify to the mutual benefit of both countries,” Tidjani said.

The ambassador praised Saudi Arabia for sending medical missions every year to support the Cameroonian health sector.

“Our government also expresses sincere thanks to Saudi Arabia for their laudable efforts for the Hajj, both in terms of organization and infrastructure,” he added.

In 2019, the Great Mosque of Maroua in northern Cameroon was inaugurated, built with the support of Saudi Arabia.

The mosque can accommodate up to 5,000 worshipers and is “considered one of the most beautiful achievements in mosque construction in sub-Saharan Africa,” said Tidjani.

The ambassador highlighted Cameroon’s battle against the Boko Haram militant organization, describing Saudi Arabia as a “friend and a major player … as can be seen from its role in the fight against terrorism.”

He added: “Cameroon and Saudi Arabia share similar views on international issues and Cameroon joins the international community to support Saudi Arabia in its effort toward peace in the Middle East and beyond.”

Cameroon’s national day on May 20 saw citizens celebrate the “unity, peace and stability of a country firmly committed to the path of emergence,” the embassy said in a statement.