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.

 

 


Culinary caravan is a chance to savor Saudi Arabia’s food heritage

Culinary caravan is a chance to savor Saudi Arabia’s food heritage
Updated 7 sec ago
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Culinary caravan is a chance to savor Saudi Arabia’s food heritage

Culinary caravan is a chance to savor Saudi Arabia’s food heritage

Riyadh: A flavor of Saudi’s rich culinary heritage is delighting tastebuds in Najran, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

Hosted by the Culinary Arts Commission, a mobile exhibition showcasing national dishes and desserts is currently offering visitors an immersive experience at King Fahd National Park, in the scenic Saqam forest.

The event, which runs until April 20, puts two iconic delicacies — jareesh and maqshush — in the spotlight, presenting them in innovative and enticing ways.

Jareesh is a savory dish of cracked wheat, cooked slowly with vegetables and tomato sauce. The addition of lamb is optional. Maqshush is a buckwheat dessert topped with ghee, honey, dates, molasses or sugar.

Visitors to the culinary arts caravan can explore the essence of Saudi cuisine through activities such as live cooking demonstrations, where they watch the dishes being prepared and then enjoy freshly cooked samples.

The exhibition is part of the commission’s National and Regional Dishes Narratives initiative, which is dedicated to cataloging and celebrating local culinary gems. Designating jareesh and maqshush as national culinary treasures highlights their significance as part of the Kingdom’s dining culture.

The caravan embarked on its journey in November last year, starting in Riyadh and traversing Makkah, Madinah, Tabuk, Jouf, the Northern Borders, Hail, Qassim and the Eastern Province. Its stop in Najran marks another milestone, with upcoming visits to Jazan, Asir and Baha concluding the seven-month odyssey.

Its aim is to deepen appreciation of local heritage, forge stronger connections with Saudi culinary traditions across generations, and provide visitors with an unforgettable culinary experience while instilling pride in national dishes.

The National and Regional Dishes Narratives initiative has also designated official dishes for the regions. Marqooq was chosen for Riyadh, saleeg for the Makkah region, Madini rice for Madinah, bakila for Jouf, and malehiy for the Northern Borders.

Al-Maqnah bread was picked for the Baha region, kubaybat for Hail and raqsh for Najran. Kaleja was selected to represent Qassim, Al-Hasawi rice for the Eastern Province, Al-Mughash for the Jazan region, Al-Sayadiyah rice for Tabuk and Al-Hanith for Asir.


Saudi, UN officials discuss aid efforts in Sudan

Saudi, UN officials discuss aid efforts in Sudan
Updated 3 min 51 sec ago
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Saudi, UN officials discuss aid efforts in Sudan

Saudi, UN officials discuss aid efforts in Sudan

RIYADH: Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah, supervisor general of the Saudi aid agency KSrelief, recently met with Clementine Nkweta-Salami, the UN resident and humanitarian coordinator for Sudan, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Wednesday.

The meeting took place on the sidelines of the International Conference for Sudan and Neighboring Countries, organized by France and the EU in Paris.

Discussions focused on matters of mutual interest related to the relief and humanitarian situation in Sudan, along with key topics on the conference’s agenda.

Al-Rabeeah highlighted the humanitarian efforts undertaken by Saudi Arabia through KSrelief in Sudan.

He said that 13 aircraft carrying supplies had been sent to Sudan, while 43 humanitarian projects worth more than $60 million had been implemented in the country and neighbor states in partnership with international, UN, and local organizations.

Additionally, the center dispatched 20 medical volunteer teams to Sudan.

Nkweta-Salami commended the efforts of the Kingdom in aiding the Sudanese people in need. She expressed hope for continued bilateral cooperation to further support humanitarian initiatives in Sudan.

On Monday, KSrelief signed two agreements with the World Food Programme, worth $1.4 million, to treat and prevent malnutrition across Sudan and South Sudan.

The agreement aims to prevent nutritional deficiencies among children, and pregnant and nursing women by providing food aid and nutritional supplements.

The funding will help more than 35,000 children, and pregnant or breastfeeding mothers affected by conflict, economic shocks, and climate events.


Saudi FM’s visit part of ‘concerted efforts’ to close investment deals — Pakistani envoy to Riyadh

Saudi FM’s visit part of ‘concerted efforts’ to close investment deals — Pakistani envoy to Riyadh
Updated 17 April 2024
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Saudi FM’s visit part of ‘concerted efforts’ to close investment deals — Pakistani envoy to Riyadh

Saudi FM’s visit part of ‘concerted efforts’ to close investment deals — Pakistani envoy to Riyadh
  • Ahmed Farooq says size and rank of Saudi delegation showed “keenness” of economic engagement plans with Pakistan
  • Saudi delegation briefed about Pakistani legal, procedural, administrative reforms undertaken to facilitate investments

RIYADH: Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud’s visit to Pakistan this week is part of “concerted efforts” to close investment deals that have been under discussion between the two nations in recent years and also discuss new areas of cooperation, Islamabad’s envoy to Riyadh Ahmed Farooq has said. 

Prince Faisal arrived in Pakistan on Monday on a two-day visit aimed at enhancing bilateral economic cooperation and pushing forward previously agreed investment deals. His trip came a little over a week after Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif in Makkah and reaffirmed the Kingdom’s commitment to expedite investments worth $5 billion.

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia enjoy strong trade, defense and cultural ties. The Kingdom is home to over 2.7 million Pakistani expatriates and the top source of remittances to the cash-strapped South Asian country.

Speaking to Arab News on Tuesday, Ambassador Farooq said during Sharif’s recent meeting with the Saudi crown prince, it was decided that the Kingdom would expand its collaboration with Pakistan across various sectors. Both countries also agreed on a roadmap for expediting investments from Saudi Arabia into strategic sectors of the Pakistan economy.

“Guided by this clear direction of the leadership, the economic teams of the two countries are now in advance talks to finalize partnership proposals in diverse sectors such as energy, renewables, connectivity, mining, agriculture, information technology, construction, human resource development and export and strategic investments,” Farooq said.

“Concerted efforts are underway to close the deals that have remained under discussion in recent years, while identifying new areas of cooperation.”

It was as part of such efforts that Prince Faisal visited Pakistan, the ambassador added, accompanied by a team of top officials across Saudi ministries. 

“The size and rank of the visiting delegation showed the keenness with which the Kingdom is pursuing economic engagement plans with Pakistan,” Farooq said. 

Among key highlights of the visit, apart from bilateral meetings between the economic teams, was a special interactive session organized by the newly established Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC), set up last year to oversee all foreign investments in Pakistan. 

“Several short, medium, and long-term projects were discussed in the dedicated sector-wise breakout sessions,” the envoy said. “The Saudi delegation was also briefed about the specific legal, procedural and administrative reforms undertaken by Pakistan in recent months to attract and facilitate foreign investments in key sectors of the economy.”

'Bedrock of support'

Cash-strapped Pakistan desperately needs to shore up its foreign reserves and signal to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that it can continue to meet requirements for foreign financing that has been a key demand in previous bailout packages. Pakistan’s finance minister, Muhammad Aurangzeb, is currently in Washington to participate in spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank and discuss a new bailout program. A $3 billion ongoing loan deal expires this month.

Saudi Arabia has often come to cash-strapped Pakistan’s aid in the past, regularly providing it oil on deferred payments and offering direct financial support to help stabilize its economy and shore up its forex reserves.

“For Pakistan, Saudi Arabia has remained a bedrock of support,” Farooq told Arab News when asked about cooperation between the two nations.

“The kingdom has always supported Pakistan and provided much needed economic support and assistance. Kingdom has also played a critical role in helping us with international financial institutions.

“Even today, the Kingdom has a central role in the future economic plans of Pakistan. The new government in Pakistan has a strong desire to attract Saudi investment – both from the public and private sectors – to usher in a new era of economic growth and development.”

Farooq said the Saudi leadership was also keen on seizing this opportunity and further enhancing economic, political and security cooperation with Pakistan.

He said there were many areas for future collaboration including energy, renewables, IT, mining, agriculture, construction, and human resource development and export.

Asked about how investment between the two nations could be further enhanced, Farooq said Pakistan had created SIFC to act as a one window operation to facilitate Saudi and other foreign investments. 

“It is tailor made for this purpose,” he added. “We are developing a lot of projects across all sectors of the economy in which the Saudi public and private sector can invest. 

The Kingdom has shown great keenness and desire to work with Pakistan and realize these projects. I am confident that we will soon see a lot of investment going from Saudi Arabia into Pakistan.”


Saudi deputy defence minister arrives in Pakistan to finalize bilateral security projects 

Saudi deputy defence minister arrives in Pakistan to finalize bilateral security projects 
Updated 17 April 2024
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Saudi deputy defence minister arrives in Pakistan to finalize bilateral security projects 

Saudi deputy defence minister arrives in Pakistan to finalize bilateral security projects 
  • Al-Otaibi’s visit comes after Saudi foreign minister was in Islamabad on two-day visit to discuss investments 
  • Pakistan maintains close military ties and provides extensive arms and training to Saudi armed forces 

ISLAMABAD: Saudi Assistant Defence Minister Talal Bin Abdullah Bin Turki Al-Otaibi is in Pakistan on a two-day visit to finalize defense-related bilateral projects, the Pakistani defence ministry said in a statement on Wednesday. 

Al-Otaibi’s visit comes on the heels of a two-day visit to Islamabad by Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, aimed at enhancing bilateral economic cooperation and pushing forward previously agreed investment deals.

“Saudi Assistant Defense Minister arrived in Pakistan on a two-day visit,” a Pakistani defence ministry statement said, adding that bilateral projects in defence-related fields would be finalized during the visit. 

Photos and videos released by the defence ministry showed Al-Otaibi arriving in Pakistan on Tuesday night and being received by Pakistani military and government officials and Saudi diplomats, including the ambassador to Islamabad. 

Pakistan maintains close military ties with Saudi Arabia, providing extensive support, arms, and training to the Saudi armed forces. 

Since the 1970s, Pakistani soldiers have been stationed in Saudi Arabia to protect the Kingdom and Pakistan has also been providing training to Saudi soldiers and pilots. The two nations also regularly carry out multidimensional joint ventures and defence exercises. 


Saudi Arabia to host Islamic Development Bank Group annual meetings and golden jubilee

Saudi Arabia to host Islamic Development Bank Group annual meetings and golden jubilee
Updated 17 April 2024
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Saudi Arabia to host Islamic Development Bank Group annual meetings and golden jubilee

Saudi Arabia to host Islamic Development Bank Group annual meetings and golden jubilee
  • As the bank celebrates its 50th anniversary, the meetings will have the theme ‘Taking Pride in Our Past and Shaping Our Future: Authenticity, Solidarity and Prosperity’

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia will host the annual meetings and golden jubilee celebrations of the Islamic Development Bank Group in Riyadh between April 27 and 30, under the patronage of King Salman.

This year’s meetings will take place under the theme “Taking Pride in Our Past and Shaping Our Future: Authenticity, Solidarity and Prosperity,” the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The bank describes itself as a pivotal platform for development dialogue, and said it is celebrating 50 years of fostering social and economic growth among its members. As a leading multilateral development bank, it said it expects the event to attract significant international and regional attention.

Participants will include economic, planning and finance ministers from the 57 member countries of the bank, along with representatives of international and regional financial agencies and organizations, Islamic banks, the private sector, development finance institutions, nongovernmental organizations, and chambers of commerce and industry.

Organizers said the annual gathering serves as a vital forum for the enhancement of economic ties and expansion of cooperation among participants. Its agenda includes forums, seminars and meetings on a range of topics, with particularly notable events including the Governors’ Round Table, the 18th IDB Global Forum on Islamic Finance, and the IDB Group Private Sector Forum.

Topics for discussion will include the role of small and medium enterprises in Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 development and diversification agenda, strategies for the financing of efforts to achieve Sustainable Development Goals, the leveraging of Islamic finance for the development of resilient infrastructure, and the establishment of the Arab Coordination Group Forum.

The Future Vision Symposium and the General Assembly of the Union of Consultants in Islamic Countries will also take place during the event.