Saudi artist embraces the unconventional with anti-aesthetic artworks

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Asrar Al-Qarni’s work showcased at Zawaya art Gallery in Jeddah. (Instagram/ies0)
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By highlighting discord and dissonance in her paintings, Asrar Al-Qarni, a self-taught artist, creates a unique and thought-provoking experience for those who encounter her work. (Supplied)
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By highlighting discord and dissonance in her paintings, Asrar Al-Qarni, a self-taught artist, creates a unique and thought-provoking experience for those who encounter her work. (Supplied)
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By highlighting discord and dissonance in her paintings, Asrar Al-Qarni, a self-taught artist, creates a unique and thought-provoking experience for those who encounter her work. (Supplied)
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Updated 17 April 2024
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Saudi artist embraces the unconventional with anti-aesthetic artworks

RIYADH: In a world fixated on beauty and aesthetic perfection, Saudi artist Asrar Al-Qarni is boldly producing anti-aesthetic and unsettling art.

Through her work, the 33-year-old challenges traditional notions of beauty and protests conformity. She compels viewers to confront uncomfortable truths and explore darker aspects of society.

This unconventional approach to art can be seen as a romantic rebellion against society’s constraints, as well as a celebration of individuality and freedom of expression.

Al-Qarni told Arab News that anti-aesthetic art encourages people to look beyond the surface and find beauty in the unexpected and the unconventional. It seeks to disrupt the status quo and provoke thought and discussion about the nature of art itself: “Instead of being visually appealing and comforting, anti-aestheticism prioritizes evoking emotions and disturbing expression within the artwork,” the artist said.

This can lead to anti-aesthetic works being labeled ugly, jarring, or anti-art by those who prefer more aesthetically focused works.

By highlighting discord and dissonance in her paintings, Al-Qarni, a self-taught artist, creates a unique and thought-provoking experience for those who encounter her work. “Incorporating elements of chaos, ugliness and discomfort forces viewers to confront their preconceived notions about what art should be,” she added.

Al-Qarni became interested in anti-aesthetic art because of its raw human expression and beauty hidden by imperfections.

She uses bold colors and abstract shapes to create pieces that challenge viewers’ preconceptions and provoke a strong emotional response.

“I use various materials for my art, including mixed media, oil paint, acrylic paint and watercolor. My choice of materials depends on the specific technique or effect I want to achieve in my artwork,” Al-Qarni said.

By breaking free from the constraints of conventional beauty, the artist is pushing boundaries and inspiring others to think outside the box.

Al-Qarni said she cultivated her style through dedicated practice. She started copying and sketching cartoons from her favorite television shows as a child. “As I got older, I got into realistic portrait painting, trying to capture the world around me, but I soon realized that realism did not allow me to express my emotions deeply enough,” she added.

The Saudi artist eventually resorted to a more liberated method, allowing her to follow her instincts and let her brush strokes guide her: “When I hold the brush against the canvas, it becomes a way to quieten the noise of life and connect with my inner self, providing a source of relaxation and tranquility.”

The artist maintains a multi-purpose space where she paints, serving as both a studio and a cozy personal area.

“It is where I sleep, read and spend most of my time. Waking up surrounded by the creative mess of my art provides me with a sense of passion and inspiration to continue my artistic journey each day.”

Ten years ago, Al-Qarni decided to pursue art professionally, and she has not looked back since. Her work has been featured in galleries and exhibitions across Saudi Arabia, earning her recognition and acclaim from critics and audiences.

Al-Qarni’s first showing was in 2016 in Jeddah with Behance, the world’s largest network for showcasing and discovering creative work.

“Facing the audience, I received both compliments and critiques. The experience was helpful and encouraging, inspiring me to create more and improve my art,” she said.

She has taken part in several art exhibitions, such as the Misk Art Institute in 2019, which provides a platform for creative individuals to influence present-day discussions.

Al-Qarni also showcased her work at Grey Art Gallery in Alkhobar, and Zawaya Art Gallery and Sensation Art Gallery in Jeddah.

The artist gives each painting a title that reflects the overarching emotion or story behind the artwork. The title can be inspired by a novel, a song, or a personal experience related to the painting.

“How someone perceives and feels about a painting can vary depending on the person looking at it,” she added. “We all bring our own thoughts and experiences, which adds to the richness and meaning of any artist’s work.”

To aspiring artists who might be intimidated to share their artwork and innermost emotions with an audience, Al-Qarni preaches that the world needs art.

“Embrace the opportunity for growth and connect with other artists through feedback and experiences, and remember that every artist starts somewhere, and sharing your work is a step toward achieving your goals.” 


Italian shipbuilding giant floats Saudi Arabia partnership plan

Updated 8 sec ago
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Italian shipbuilding giant floats Saudi Arabia partnership plan

  • Fincantieri stands out in the shipbuilding industry for its innovation, says CEO

RIYADH: One of the world’s biggest shipbuilders will work in partnership with Saudi Arabia to strengthen the Kingdom’s maritime sector, with a focus on sustainability and the development of “green shipping.”

Fincantieri, an Italian company and Europe’s largest shipbuilding group, highlighted its commitment to Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 agenda at a conference under the theme “Where Vision Meets Maritime Excellence” held in Riyadh on Wednesday.

Saudi decisionmakers from related sectors in Riyadh joined Italian officials in a range of sessions at the forum.

During the event, Fincantieri CEO Pierroberto Folgiero outlined the shipbuilder’s plans to collaborate with Saudi companies in line with Vision 2030.

“Our commitment to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is steadfast,” he said.

Fincantieri stands out in the shipbuilding industry for its innovation, and has a leading role in the naval, cruise, and oil and gas sectors, Folgiero said.

The CEO highlighted the importance of developing green ships, designed to minimize the environmental impact of maritime operations, as part of Saudi Arabia’s commitment to achieving net-zero emissions by 2060.

Digitizing shipyard operations through innovations such as AI also aligns with the goals of Vision 2030, Folgiero said.

“Today, the shipping industry and the maritime industry, in general, is coping with environmental regulation. For us, it is not only a source of compliance, but also a source of distinctiveness. So, we believe that in the maritime sector, in the shipbuilding sector, mastering energy transition and new technologies will be a source of competitiveness and distinctiveness,” he said.

“That is why we are engaged in all the solutions (regarding) energy transition at sea. We are a new engine. We are in biofuels. We are in methanol. We are in LNG. We are in ammonia. We are in hydrogen. We are everywhere there is innovation at sea.”

Maria Tripodi, undersecretary of state for foreign affairs at the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, discussed the significance of keeping operations and businesses sustainable.

Fincantieri’s ships are built to produce zero carbon emissions, which helps to protect the environment and marine ecosystem, she said.

Khalil Ibrahim bin Salamah, deputy minister for industry affairs at the Saudi Ministry of Industry and Mineral Resources, said: “Localization for us is a key factor. Key components are crucial, but the whole supply chain is equally important.”


Saudi Arabia’s envoy opens ‘Al-Mangour: Loved and Beloved’ exhibition in US

Princess Reema bint Bandar, Saudi Arabia’s US ambassador, opened the exhibition “Al-Mangour: Loved and Beloved” in Washington.
Updated 23 May 2024
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Saudi Arabia’s envoy opens ‘Al-Mangour: Loved and Beloved’ exhibition in US

  • The work by Saudi Arabia artist Ahmad Angawi was presented by the Saudi Embassy and the International Finance Corporation
  • Al-Mangour is a traditional Hijazi craft that consists of wooden latticework forming a mesh-like screen

RIYADH: Princess Reema bint Bandar, Saudi Arabia’s US ambassador, opened the exhibition “Al-Mangour: Loved and Beloved” in Washington on Wednesday.

The work by Saudi Arabia artist Ahmad Angawi was presented by the Saudi Embassy and the International Finance Corporation.

The exhibition, held at the IFC’s headquarters, showcases the beauty of Al-Mangour, the traditional Hijazi craft that consists of wooden latticework forming a mesh-like screen.

Al-Mangour is a traditional Hijazi craft that consists of wooden latticework forming a mesh-like screen. (@rbalsaud)

The craft reflects the spiritual relationship between humans through a story of two halves that form one unit — the “loved and beloved.”

The exhibition included musical performances and traditional cuisine.

In her speech, Princess Reema stressed the importance of traditional arts in strengthening cultural identity and solidifying national heritage, and building bridges with other nations.

She lauded Angawi for preserving and developing the traditions of the Hijaz region.

Among those in attendance were the IFC’s Director Makhtar Diop, officials, diplomats and artists.


Saudi ambassador presents credentials to emperor of Japan

Updated 23 May 2024
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Saudi ambassador presents credentials to emperor of Japan

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Japan, Ghazi Faisal Binzagr, on Thursday presented his diplomatic credentials to Emperor Naruhito during a reception at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo.

The envoy, who took up his post in January, conveyed to the emperor the greetings and appreciation of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and their best wishes to the government of Japan and its people for their continued progress and prosperity, the Kingdom’s foreign ministry said.


MDLBEAST building a creative tribe through music, says chief creative officer

Updated 23 May 2024
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MDLBEAST building a creative tribe through music, says chief creative officer

  • Ahmad AlAmmary talks about MDLBEAST vision, his own musical background for 6th season of ‘The Mayman Show’

Riyadh: MDLBEAST is building a tribe for the region’s music lovers through its initiatives such as the Soundstorm festival, the platform’s Chief Creative Officer Ahmad AlAmmary, also known as DJ Baloo, said. The Saudi veteran DJ and producer with over 20 years of experience under his belt sat down with Arab News’ “The Mayman Show” for the launch of its sixth season, talking about MDLBEAST’s ambitions and his own background.

His role taps into his ability to find solutions on many levels, he shared.

 

 

“It’s been my role since the onset of this whole project. My background sits between design thinking, brand development, and brand strategy, and music,” the CCO said, adding that the role feels like a perfect fit for him.

“Creatively, you know, every day is its own day. There’s no system for creativity. Its context is whatever comes your way, whatever problem you’re solving — that’s where your creativity sits,” he said.

AlAmmary said it was MDLBEAST’s goal to become involved in all facets of the creative music industry since its launch in 2019.

 

 

“From the onset, the big splash was Soundstorm, but we had every intention of launching our record labels, our music conferences, and XP Music Future,” he said.

The platform launched around the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, which provided an opportunity for it to focus on entertaining.

“So, whether or not you (could) go to an event, we were still around there to … provide the music and to provide the entertainment,” AlAmmary said.

After pandemic restrictions eased, it allowed him and the team to stay on the path they paved. MDLBEAST started with flagship live events and some record labels.

 

 

“We had … launched MDLBEAST Records, Qabo, Wattar, Maestro-Lab and, most recently, Mahoul Records. Each of these labels, for example, serves … a niche. Above and beyond, our conference is a really unique experience that gathers people from around the region. We have a day and night experience. During the day, it’s all about learning and networking, connecting, and collaborating. And at night, that turns into a regional music showcase,” AlAmmary said.

MDLBEAST highlights up-and-coming brands that are leading the underground scene of Saudi music across a variety of genres, the CCO said.

“It’s just been, you know, a lot of fun … but also a lot of … work. We’re turning around projects left and right,” he said, adding that the platform is now “diving into venues” with the launch of Beast House, for example, “Riyadh’s first music and creative members club,” according to the MDLBEAST website.

 

 

“We developed these smaller pop-up events, with more intimate settings,” AlAmmary said, explaining that the events take place in spaces that have been abandoned, giving MDLBEAST space to flex its creative muscles.

“We can take over and create an experience that is very unique,” he said. “We saw that with Tahlia in Jeddah and Irqah in Riyadh, the abandoned hospital … We’re looking at all of these different spaces and projects as … fun experiences that we can create for our people and platforms for musicians to shine.”

Speaking about his own background, AlAmmary says he owes his creative attributes to his very musical family.

 

 

“My eldest brother, Khalid, actually, he was kind of like the cultural center of our family. Everything from film to music, design, art, you know, we always had a deep interest in the arts because of his influence. Especially with me and house music — that’s where I learned it. I learned it from Khalid,” he said.

The DJ and producer developed an interest in music at an early age.

“By the time I was 17, I already had a collection of music,” he said. “Years later, you know, I started to get things like a residency in Bahrain … I would just travel to Beirut and the gigs would appear.”

 


3rd European Film Festival set to launch in Saudi

Updated 23 May 2024
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3rd European Film Festival set to launch in Saudi

  • VOX Cinemas will host 21 European films over the one-week event
  • The line-up features movies that have won awards including Oscars and the Palme d’Or, the highest prize awarded at the Cannes Film Festival

RIYADH: The third European Film Festival begins next week, taking place in both Riyadh and Jeddah for the first time.
The event, which will run from May 29 to June 6, is being launched by the European Union Delegation to the Kingdom in conjunction with the embassies of EU member states and Arabia Pictures.
It will be hosted at VOX Cinemas Century Corner in Riyadh and the newly opened VOX Cinemas Jeddah Park in Jeddah.
This year the festival is bigger than ever, with 21 European films from countries including Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden.
The line-up features movies that have won awards including Oscars and the Palme d’Or, the highest prize awarded at the Cannes Film Festival.
EU Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Christophe Farnaud said: “I am glad that the European Film Festival has become a landmark event on the Kingdom’s cultural calendar. The festival has been expanding year by year and this time around we are not only showcasing more movies, but also bringing the festival to Jeddah. I hope that this will allow even more Saudi film enthusiasts to attend the festival’s many film screenings and side events.”
Ahmed Teama, CEO of Arabia Pictures, expressed his pleasure at extending the collaboration with the EU Delegation to Saudi Arabia for a third consecutive year.
He lauded the festival as one of the most significant cinematic events in the Kingdom, highlighting its unique appeal to a devoted audience of international cinema enthusiasts.
Aimed at facilitating cultural exchange and promoting European cinema, the festival will also foster contacts between European and Saudi filmmakers.
Among the guests will be Oscar-winning Austrian film director Stefan Ruzowitzky, who will give a special masterclass.
Also attending will be director Kyriakos Tofaridis and screenwriter/director Mijke de Jong as well as Robert Higgins and Patrick McGivney, from Cyprus, the Netherlands and Ireland respectively, who will meet the audiences and run an open conversation with filmmakers and film enthusiasts.
All side-events are free of charge and will take place at VOX Cinemas Century Corner in Riyadh.
Cinema enthusiast Meshal Al-Mutairi told Arab News: “I have seen movies during previous EU film fests and like their movie selection.”
For more information about the festival program or to buy tickets, visit https://arabiapictures.sa/EuroFest or https://ksa.voxcinemas.com