Saudi Arabian art in Dubai

Edge of Arabia: Terminal will feature Saudi’s finest contemporary artists

Manal Al Dowayan, 37
Manal Al Dowayan, 37
Abdulnasser Gharem, 38
Abdulnasser Gharem, 38
Hala Ali, 24
Hala Ali, 24

Are you bored of turning up to a small, square gallery space, staring at a couple of paintings, then heading home? This new exhibition at DIFC promises to deliver something different.

The show, presenting contemporary art from Saudi Arabia, is set up like an airport terminal (you’ll have to check in and so on, although we’re pretty sure there won’t be an Irish Village); the collection is curated by Cuadro Gallery visionary Bashar Al Shroogi and features several specially commissioned works from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s finest contemporary artists. We met them to get an insight into their often-misunderstood kingdom.

Manal Al Dowayan, 37

Saudi Arabia is… ‘The land of contradictions. You will love her deep-rooted spirituality, but hate the fanaticism that has emerged alongside it. You will embrace the vastness and solitude of her sand dunes. Saudi is full of inspiration that’s best expressed through art. Explore Saudi poetry, song and dance and you will be mesmerised. And the fun has only just started. With half of its 25 million population under the age of 20, contemporary Saudi art has hit the fast lane and is not looking back.’
The work ‘Entitled “Nostalgia Takes Us to Sea but Desire Keeps us from the Shore”, this is part of a poem by the late Dr Ghazi Gossaibi, mourning a friend who had passed away. The photo was taken from a moving car (a drive-by shooting) – it is hard for me to stand on the street and take a picture in Saudi without feeling unwelcome.’

Hala Ali, 24

Saudi Arabia is… ‘An enigma at best, and just another Arab state at worst.’
The work ‘This piece, “Brainwash”, comments on the need to be critical regarding the dissemination of information. The newspaper is one of the most traditional forms of that. Here, they are piled and compressed between steel vices and mounted to the wall. The juxtaposition of two vices creates a narrow space through which a viewer can pass.’

Maha Mullah, age unknown

Saudi Arabia is… ‘A place entrenched in tradition and culture that simultaneously looks to a globalised sense of modernity of inspiration.’
The work ‘“Barcode” is primarily concerned with security checks at airports. The act of travelling involves being probed, searched, having one’s privacy invaded. Our baggage is screened, our passport photos scrutinised and our identity searched. How has society reached the point that allows security to form a search on travellers because they carry a particular object? Why does this then lead to a lengthy interrogation? Although this work does not seek to answer these questions, they initiate the thematic concerns of this piece.’

Abdulnasser Gharem, 38

Saudi Arabia is… ‘My inspiration and the main source of my creativity.’
The work ‘Concrete blockades are often used when there are two different ideologies and they (the institution/greater powers) want to separate them – such as the Berlin wall in Germany. Here in Saudi I noticed the introduction of concrete blocks after September 11. In this block, the largest I’ve ever made, I’ve used quotes from a speech made by US President John F Kennedy in West Berlin in 1963, ‘Ich bin Ein Berliner’. It also has quotes in Arabic taken from the wall in Palestine. The message is: don’t put your trust in the concrete.’

The lowdown

Artists: Manal Al Dowayan, Maha Malluh, Hala Ali, Abdulnasser Gharem, Ahmed Matter, Ayman Yosri, Sami Al Turki and Hamza Serafi
From: Saudi Arabia
Exhibition: ‘Edge of Arabia: Terminal’ at Building 9, Gate Village, DIFC. Open Sat-Thu noon-8am. The show continues until April 14.

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