‘Rome chose me,’ says Saudi artist on breakthrough Italian exhibition

The 4th Century Arch of Janus (L) and the Palazzo Rhinoceros (R), the new building of the Alda Fendi-Esperimenti Foundation dedicated to arts, are pictured. (File/AFP) (File/AFP)
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Updated 24 October 2020

‘Rome chose me,’ says Saudi artist on breakthrough Italian exhibition

  • “Rome chose me and not vice versa. This idea wants to be a bridge between cultures,” Fahad told Arab News
  • He could not be in Rome for the opening of the exhibition, which is open to visitors until Dec. 10

ROME: Saudi artist Sultan bin Fahad has chosen Rhinoceros, an art gallery in Rome’s historic heart, for his first solo show.
The exhibition, “Frequency,” is staged in a 15th-century building recently renovated by French architect Jean Nouvel, and includes six installations featuring light, incense, shadows, music and sounds. Each piece describes a spiritual journey to modernity through many cultures, but one that is firmly linked to Islam.
“Rome chose me and not vice versa. This idea wants to be a bridge between cultures,” Fahad told Arab News from Los Angeles, where he lives. He could not be in Rome for the opening of the exhibition, which is open to visitors until Dec. 10.
“Each of my creations is specific. I wanted to tell a concept that was understood and expressed by the surrounding place,” the artist said. Over the years he collected precious antique pieces from Makkah and Madinah which he found all over the world, including some metallic pieces which had gone missing in 1979. He shot videos and recorded sounds, and used everything in the artwork that describes what he sees as the human journey toward a sacred temple of feelings.
The exhibition includes “Been There,” a piece with four ancient stones inscribed in Arabic interacting with a large plate of luminescent glass. Then comes “If Stone Could Speak,” with white marble works from Makkah. A video is projected showing men and women gathered in prayer.
Another work, “Possession,” shows an image of the hands of men and women trying to get closer to an elusive God, trying to touch the tomb of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
“I filmed those people and I was interested to understand why they were doing those gestures. They were trying to reach the divine. I thought it was moving,” Fahad said.
“The Verse of The Throne” contains a projection of a verse from the Holy Qur’an in front of six bowls, with water serving as an element of purification. Then comes “The White Noise,” represented in two immersive rooms, associated by the artist with the prayers of Makkah pilgrims.
Fahad said the exhibition looks to “involve all the senses to create a real experience, going beyond a visual experience for the visitor.”
In this sense, his works represent the place where anthropological concepts were born and became infused by Greek, Latin and Eastern cultures.
In fact, in the Arabian Gulf, humans once measured their existence through the loss of their relatives, creating a cult of the dead, which is reflected in Fahad’s work.
The artist is waiting to see what the future has in store. “I have no plans so far. I am so happy that I could produce something in 2020 due the the difficult time the entire world is experiencing. Let us hope that the situation will evolve for the better,” he said.

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Shara Art Fair brings together Saudi artists

Updated 25 November 2020

Shara Art Fair brings together Saudi artists

  • With the global pandemic closing art galleries and canceling live events, artists took a hit like many other workers

JEDDAH: The Saudi Art Council brought together a wide range of local artists after the months-long lockdown for the 6th Shara Art Fair, which was recently launched in Jeddah at the council’s headquarters.

With the global pandemic closing art galleries and canceling live events, artists took a hit like many other workers. The Shara Art Fair, however, allowed artists from all across the country to exhibit their talents in seven art galleries.

The participating galleries included Athr Gallery, Hafez Gallery, 6th Sense Art, Noor Gallery, Tasami Creative Lab, BHAC, and Visual Stations.

Heba Abed, a visual artist and painter, said that her life during the pandemic was a combination of “watching TV, eating, and painting.”

Inspired by her surroundings, Abed’s artwork was a collection of one hundred paintings that exhibit the emotions she felt during the hundred days of quarantine.

“Some of the paintings express the feelings I had while in quarantine, while others are inspired by fairy tales because there was a lot of time for our minds to wander while we were stuck at home,” she told Arab News. 

Heba Abed

She added: “I would sometimes paint more than one painting a day during the lockdown. While we were all bored, I decided to practice the thing I loved most. I found inspiration in my life, in society and in everything that happened around me.”

Artist Elham Dawsari, on the other hand, used the 1990s as inspiration for her artwork, “Nefa,” which means a spacious place with few to no walls. The installation, featuring clay women set over acrylic boxes with mirrors inside, is meant to symbolize the women’s untold stories.

“The idea behind the piece was to represent the lives of the women in the 90s,” she said.

Cutouts hang from the ceiling of the gallery around the art, which according to Dawsari, symbolize the urban landscaping at the time and the style of the houses.

HIGHLIGHTS

• The Shara Art Fair allowed artists from all across the country to exhibit their talents in seven art galleries.

• The participating galleries included Athr Gallery, Hafez Gallery, 6th Sense Art, Noor Gallery, Tasami Creative Lab, BHAC, and Visual Stations.

“They also show how those designs imposed themselves on our lives,” she said. “They show certain aspects of society and how we behaved and how our bodies looked because of the limited space we had to walk around in; they were fuller but also more muscular because of all the hard work the women used to do.”

The clay figures of the women are based on Dawsari’s memory and the collective memory of her family.

Another piece featured large wooden dolls perched on a table. As time passed, the artist painted more dolls. The founder of Dar Malak, Malak Masallati, was the designer and director of the project and expressed the hope that her wooden dolls would become the next “Saudi Wooden Dolls.”

“I wanted to create wooden dolls that represent our country and its culture and that could become an icon. I called the project ‘Nasana’,” she told Arab News.

Dar Malak worked with designers and artisans to translate the idea of Masallati into actual objects.

Masallati worked with a wood factory that handled the woodturning and scaling for her.

“I did my research on the proportions of the human body, using examples of different bodies to create the variety you see here,” she added.