Saudi artists shine in AlUla exhibition, ‘Returning to a Present’  

‘Our Inheritance of Meaning’ 

Muhannad Shono 

This group exhibition features work from six Saudi artists. Its title is, according to Athr Gallery’s brochure, inspired by Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben’s assertion that “to be contemporary means, in this sense, to return to a present where we have never been” and it showcases works that “respond to the dynamic social and aesthetic environments that shape contemporary Saudi Arabia,” through various media. “A central theme explored in this exhibition is the interplay between tradition and transformation, collective and individual, and the relationship of local and imported influences,” the brochure continues. Shono, then, is an ideal choice. He has established himself as one of the Kingdom’s foremost creatives and his work fits perfectly with the show’s themes. This particular piece, created in 2019, is a charcoal print on tape that is both inspired by, and mourns, the forgotten method of learning through song.  

‘The Salad Zone’  

Sarah Abu Abdallah 

This 20-minute video installation showcases the Qatif-born artist’s scattergun approach to storytelling, eschewing linear tales in order to build atmosphere — or, as the gallery puts it, “shedding light on shards of the everyday that act as abstracts to an underlying narrative.” Abu Abdallah spoke to Arab News about this alarming and humorous work in 2020, explaining that it was, in part, inspired by a friend of hers smashing up a TV set in anger. “I thought it was funny because the TV room seems to be a place where a lot of anger develops,” the artist said. “It’s also the place in a home where people gather most often.” 

‘Glory to God’ 

Sultan bin Fahad 

The Riyadh-born artist “explores expressions of Islam and Saudi identity, histories and national narratives through attention to the products of his homeland’s prodigious material culture,” the gallery explains. “By amassing and rearranging eclectic domestic objects including flasks, prayer mats, air conditioning units and chandeliers, bin Fahad aims to connect past and present.” This is a detail from a work in which he collected personal prayer mats from people and formed them into the shape of a traditional prayer room. “He then used colored neon lights to write a full prayer with only their diacritics,” the gallery states. “The artist draws a parallel between the spoken word, the absent letters and the collective of bodies, making corporeal what we do not perceive.” 


Ayman Yossri Daydban 

This well-respected Palestinian-born artist lives and works in Jeddah, where he focuses on “the critical examination of national narratives … Of particular interest to the artist are the tensions arising at the intersectional points of translation and interdependence, where questions of assimilation and divergent customs come to the fore.” Daydban is keen to share his knowledge, and offers regular studio tours of his space in Jeddah, inviting anyone to come and discuss art with him. Arrangements can be made through Athr Gallery. 

‘Up In The Air’ 

Ahaad Alamoudi 

One of a pair of works that comprise Alamoudi’s work “Keep It Up People, The Night Is Young!” The other piece is a thobe, decorated with a similar print celebrating the universal language of football in a specifically Saudi way. “Around the world, common knowledge states that football is life,” the brochure says. “Just like life, we are always attempting to improve our sense of it … Above all, what we experience is how the theater of football can exhibit the internal affairs of people — the constant pushing and pulling and how we manage.” It’s a prime example of how Alamoudi “approaches her work from the perspective of a digital native artist who recomposes fragments drawn from the torrential wash of digital content into novel compositions that interrelate pop culture and tradition.”

Courtesy: arabnews