Saudi and international artists explore the nature of identity in Riyadh performance

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DUBAI: A large woven installation echoes the shapes of palm trees seen lying on the ground. “Palm”, placed in Prince Faisal bin Fahd Arts Hall in Riyadh for Misk Art Week’s “Here, Now” exhibition, was created by contemporary American artist Sheila Hicks. It was originally designed at King Saud University in Riyadh, where Hicks set up an art program in the 1980s.

Hicks remembers the pleasant moment of lying down, staring at a palm tree, and seeing a mass of leaves spread above her. The joy of looking at the parallel reality created by its leaves became the basis of Hick’s tapestry “The Palm Tree” (1984-85), made of wool, cotton, rayon, silk and linen. The piece on display in Riyadh follows centuries-old weaving methods established in Aubusson workshops in France and showcases the artist’s ability to translate a personal and intimate moment into the physical and public realm with grace and ease.

Sheila Hicks, Palm, 1985, wool, woven tapestry, 358.1 x 281.9 cm. (Here, Now / هنا ، الآن, October 3, 2021 – January 31, 2022. (Courtesy of the artist and Misk Art Institute)

“During my time in Saudi Arabia in the 1980s,” Hicks said, “during a field trip with various architects involved in the design of King Saud University, I looked up to the sky and I was struck by the splendor and the size of the palm tree which was to protect and shade us. “Palm”, the tapestry presented as part of “Here, Now”, is inspired by this specific palm tree. “

The original work hangs in the main auditorium of King Saud University in Riyadh. Other versions of the work can be found in several international collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Minneapolis Institute of Art.

Hicks’ dreamlike work, recalling the beauty of Saudi Arabia’s desert landscape, is one of many pieces by Saudi and international artists in the exhibition responding to notions of individual and collective identity and how they respond to society, as well as to a space or place, whether public or private. Organized by British writer Sacha Craddock in collaboration with Misk’s assistant curators Alia Ahmad Al-Saud and Nora Algosaibi, the exhibition also features paintings, textiles, sculptures, digital works and immersive installations by Saudi artists. Filwa Nazer, Manal AlDowayan, Yousef Jaha and Sami Ali. AlHossein, Saudi-Palestinian Ayman Yossri Daydban, Piyarat Piyapongwiwat from Thailand, Salah ElMur from Sudan, Vasudevan Akkitham from India and South Korean Young In Hong.


Young in Hong, Flower Drawing (Columbia Road, London), 2009, cotton embroidery, 116 x 89×3 cm. (Courtesy of the artist and the Misk Art Institute)

“I hope the exceptionally smooth and open process that brought ‘Here, Now’ together is reflected in the audience’s experience,” said Sacha Craddock. “Layers of conservation knowledge and familiarity, for me, have merged with totally new influences, innovations and traditions to produce a sense of perpetual discovery for all. “

“I Am Here”, a large-scale work by Manal AlDowayan, encourages visitors to participate in the work. Paint and stencils are available so that viewers can write the title of the work themselves – I Am Here – on one of the gallery walls. Over time, the painted words gradually disappear under new words, offering a visual commentary on the delicate relationship between the individual and the collective, as well as the transience of time and existence.

The interactive labyrinth-shaped sculpture by Saudi-Palestinian artist Ayman Yossri Daydban titled “Tree House” (2019) is a large-scale work positioned against several walls. It seeks to deconstruct archetypal narratives related to cultural heritage and identity, as well as the historical relationship of the Middle East to Western colonial powers, through its multitude of cut out forms, Daydban’s reflective work derives from the subjective nature words and language. The artist believes that even after an object’s function and meaning shifts, its material basis – in essence its basic form – remains.


Filwa Nazer, The Other Is Another Body 2, 2019, industrial polyethylene and cotton net, 292 x 83 x 240 cm. (Courtesy of the artist and the Misk Art Institute)

An installation by Filwa Nazer, another Saudi artist, titled “The Other Is Another Body,” which was commissioned by the Sharjah Art Foundation in 2019, features a pair of sculptures covered in black mesh that Nazer said “evoke a feminine presence and embody the spirit of the in-between in its various contradictions. She wants the sculptures to be “at the same time vulnerable and strong, abstract and concrete, protected and exposed, connected but separate.” The intention of Nazer was to show sculptures in “the state of becoming in all its fragility and awkwardness”.

Nazer’s work, which ranges from digital printing to collage, textiles and photography, addresses the issue of emotional identity regarding social and spatial context.

“My work is related to my emotional or psychological interaction with my themes and concepts,” she said. “Research is an integral part of my artistic practice: reading, field research, collecting material and stories. My lines of investigation always stem from a desire to question things. Thanks to my research, new connections between various elements begin to emerge, then begins the process of experimental creation.

The diversity of the works on display is further illustrated in the paintings of the Saudi artist AlHossein and the Sudanese ElMur. The abstract paintings of the former depict the idea of ​​personal memory as a landscape while ElMur’s endearing yet profound canvas works depict subjects confused by reality as we know it and a new three-dimensional space – perhaps the influence of today’s rapidly expanding technological field.

As the works of “Here, Now” show, the spaces occupied by staff and the public are subjective, according to the perception of each one, dictated by their own personal context and the intention which they apply to the people and to the people. spaces they occupy in real time, in everyday life.

Here, Now / ا ، الآن, October 3, 2021 – January 31, 2022, miskartinstitute.org


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