A break onto the contemporary art scene is nowadays being led by the works of a young generation of Saudi artists, ones that dedicate a great amount of time and energy in locating their culture at the heart of their artworks. Changing the image of a country that not a few across have stereotyped as the core of terrorism and extremism, to one that they could interact with its culture and traditions, or simply voicing out certain social limitations, are generally the current concerns that are present in the Saudi art scene.
An extensive combination of creatively minded Saudi artists have proven that Saudi contemporary art stands upon a good deal of flexibility and openness in sharing their art with the world, as almost none of them have shied away from an open dialogue and discussion. Interestingly, a reflection of feminist rays has also been evident in the Saudi art scene. Hala Ali, a young outstanding orator, passionately illustrates both of the art and power of the spoken word through addressing the social issues that affect her fellow Saudi women.
The “Mr. Khaleeji Man” poem by Hala last month at the London’s Edge of Arabia #cometogether opening event was nothing less that powerful and a fiery performance, which grabbed a lot of attention, as it mainly dealt with her stance of Arab women. Also, Hala has recently participated at Abu Dhabi’s art fair in story-telling performance inspired by artisans and crafts, right by the “Inside Chairs” installation of the inspiring Tadashi Kawamata. In her own words, Hala mentioned her own work: “…engages in the exploration of text, language and meaning. Ideas are represented through letters in order to explore the functions of the literary and its place within the wider visual arts context.”
The Saudi born British raised artist has been surrounded by an environment that very much appreciated creativity and arts since her early days in England, as it allowed her to combine her local themes along with more global ones. However, like a lot of her fellow Saudi artists, the media’s misconception of Saudi culture has highly influenced the context of her artworks.
Exhibited in a previous exhibition is her installation “Brainwash” that portrays brushes that made from newspapers in a car-wash. In an interview for The New York Times earlier this year, Hala Ali mentioned that: “Brainwash represents the removal of literal, inscribed language as a medium, toying with the idea of the visual pun… It openly ensconces political intent and a latent distrust of information”.
Hala has also exposed us a uniquely different form of art lately at the Edge of Arabia #cometogether. In her second collaboration with the artist Lantian Xie, they chose to direct their focus and use their cohesive methods for an artwork that presents the theme of community and hospitality. Through this collaboration, Ali and Xie have been able to successfully and beautifully present an artistic cultural exchange.
WORDS: ERUM AL HOWAISH
ILLUSTRATION: COCO DAVEZ
To see more of Coco’s work visit her portfolio here