Saudi Arabia’s Misk silkscreen micro-residency etches pure emotion on print

RIYADH (Arabnews): Misk Art Institute’s latest art residency showcase brought together a variety of culture vultures to experience a wave of emotions — from inner demons to journeys of self-exploration — through silkscreen prints.

The residency, a month-long intensive program that took place at the Masaha art hub throughout August, saw six residents fully immersed in the contemporary art of silkscreen printing, supervised by an expert team of in-house printmakers.

The residents brought their own unique ideas to life, from the curatorial phase to the production phase through access to the institute’s screen-printing facilities and individual studio spaces.

“The residency was great. The printing methods helped me to deliver the message more prominently and more easily. I think that we achieved a lot in a one-month residency,” resident and film photographer Haitham Alsharif told Arab News.

His work further explored the conversation of self-awareness, coping mechanisms, and contemporary social pressures. The vulnerability issues his generation faces in their daily lives act as an influence on his work, focusing on creating a printed representation of various expectations and criticisms such as the pressure of marriage or wearing labels.

“In photography, I think printing is an essential way of showcasing a photo, but using different colors and different formats of printing, it can add another layer of creativity so you can deliver that message in a more creative, attractive, and prominent way,” he said.

By contrast, fellow resident Shatha Altumihi explored the inner pressures that one creates within themselves. Her work, an audience favorite, centers around characters that individuals can morph into in the process of expressing themselves emotionally by dealing with their inner demons.

“I decided to choose this subject because I often feel misunderstood. I’ve gone through certain experiences so I wanted to visualize that in a funky and visually pleasing way so that people don’t feel that these emotions are negative or that monsters are a bad thing,” she told Arab News.

Altumihi has used this opportunity to delve into silkscreen printing to further enhance her graphic design and illustration background. She’s used various techniques, such as bitmap photoshop effects, to bring texture and vividness to her artworks.

Resident Mohammad Fattal brought an emotional display to the halls of Masaha. His pieces, printed on draped sheer fabric, represent our relationship with abandoned or old buildings.

Photographs of torn-down places and homes shed light on the emotions we endure when we leave precious memories behind, either willingly or forcefully. On a personal level, it’s an ode to his home country, Syria.

“I haven’t been to Syria since the war, so when I saw these scenes of torn down buildings, I got the feeling, even if they weren’t real, of how I would feel if I saw this in my country, in places that are dear to my heart,” Fattal told Arab News.

As a digital photographer, he tested the contrasting reactions to his digital photos with physically printed works, playing around with fabrics and textured paper.

“It gives you a different feeling, and that’s what I wanted to transfer from my personality to things that are more artistic, not just photography. I’ve found that in printing in a beautiful way… with every print or try, we get a new artwork,” he said.

The micro-residency was organized to bring together artists from various disciplines to experience this delicate but immersive technique, gain a deeper appreciation for silkscreen printing and showcasing their work to the Saudi community.

The art residency comes after three cycles of three-month intensive programs, the Masaha Residencies, which have featured artists from all over the world coming to Riyadh to develop their craft and explore their designated themes.

The showcase will be running until Sept. 8 at Misk’s Masaha space, open to the public daily from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.