Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Foreign Artists in Riyadh: An Exhibition Hosted by the Art and Design Group of Riyadh

Abayas in a row. . .
The Art and Design Society KSA hosted an art exhibition last night featuring the work of foreign artists in Riyadh. I was lucky enough to go and spend the evening in the company of 9 artists along with art lovers from Riyadh. The exhibition was held at the private villa of a local artist in Riyadh who generously allowed the Art and Design Society to use her basement gallery for the exhibition. As it was a ladies-only event, we were allowed to shed our abayas for the evening. This is a sight you would never see in the U.S. (at least for most Americans) with the abayas hung up on coat racks. 

Nine artists showed their work: Jen Buchanan (Australian), Walaa Gad Desouky (Egyptian), Anne Claire Fabre (French), Heather McClellan (American), Michelle Maree (Australian), Saida Oihabi (Moroccan), Susanne Tabet (German), Asma Tariq (Pakistani), and Gosia van Unen (Dutch-Polish). There were a variety of mediums and styles displayed. I spoke with three of the artists and received their permission to post their paintings on my blog. Please do not share these pictures as they do belong to the artists. If you want more information or to see more of their works, please contact them at their email addresses or go to their facebook pages. I have provided links to the artists.

There was a wonderful display of food brought by the artists, highlighting food from their individual countries. The food was delicious and gave us a taste of the diversity of cultures and experiences represented by the artists. Heather McClellan, an American, brought pumpkin pie, an American favorite. There were some delightful treats to sample. 

Asma Tariq, Jen Buchanan, Gosia van Unen, Susanne Tabet, and Saida Oihabi each gave short presentations about their art work and training. I found the presentations really interesting. Gosia van Unen is prolific in her output. It is clear that she has an intense to create and experiment. Her work is very diverse and interesting. Jen Buchanan discussed her passion to teach students and to create work as a means to look critically at our world. Asma Tariq discussed the precision in her technique to create her exquisite miniature works of Mughal style paintings. She paints using a magnifying glass. She also discussed this royal style of painting. I was quite captivated by her artwork. Susanne Tabet spoke of being so moved by the beauty of artists like Modigliani and attempting to recreate their works. I loved the way she spoke about how her art affects her personally, how it soothes and moves her with the beauty of the colors, lines, and movement. Saida Oihabi was trained in France but also has a rich Moroccan heritage. She spoke movingly of an orphanage near her home in Morocco. She helps support this orphanage through her artwork. 

I am not an artist myself. But I do consider myself creative and artistic as a writer, a scrapbooker, and a musician. As these writers discussed creativity, inspiration, technique, and education, I felt like I could apply that inspiration to my own creativity. There is an energy and excitement when you meet artists and view their work. I also liked the idea that art challenges us to think critically about our world. And certainly, these paintings made me step back and think. 

I would have loved to show you paintings from all 9 artists, but I wasn't able to speak with all of them personally and didn't feel like I had the write to share pictures of their work without their permission. Here are three paintings that I really enjoyed. Again, I'm not an artist, so I'm just sharing my uneducated opinions and reactions to these particular paintings.

This first painting is called "Al Hayq 1" and was painted by Saida Oihabi, a Moroccan woman who was raised in France. I found this painting so beautiful with graceful, flowing lines, the repetition of the white robed women, and the sense of mystery evoked. The women are completed veiled and we only see their backs. I do find women in the Middle East fascinating, mysterious, and unapproachable covered in their veils  and robes. There is a privacy and a dignity portrayed by these women. And to me I also see a real difference in cultures. In the U.S., women don't hide behind veils and robes. We lack a subtlety in our dress, behavior, and movements. That contrast strikes me every time I venture out into Riyadh. Of course, women in Riyadh and Saudi Arabia are garbed in black. That is almost more forbidding and ominous in a way. 

I found the painting both beautiful and thought-provoking. Thought-provoking because it caused me to ponder my own reactions to differences in cultures and the way women dress in this area and what that dress means to me.
"Al Hayq 1" by Saida Oihabi. For more information, please contact Saida at saidaoihabi@yahoo.fr   This image is shared by permission from Saida Oihabi. Please do not copy or share this image.

I love this painting, "Saudis" by Heather McClellan. I know Heather personally. She is a wonderful art teacher and a delightful person. She is currently working on a series of paintings focusing on women in countries she has visited. (She has a wonderful painting about Thai women that is fabulous). She showed this painting at the exhibit. I apologize for the poor quality of the photograph. I love this painting because of the bold black color, interspersed with bright pops of color. I love how Heather highlights the different ways Saudi women cover their faces and their eyes. Since Saudi women cover most of their faces, their eyes become very evocative and compelling. It is a little hard to see from the photograph, but there are henna designs throughout the entire painting. The swirling patterns create a lot of movement in the painting. I think the faces of the women are beautiful. I like this painting because where I sometimes feel that Saudi women are forbidding their black attire, Heather sees mystery, beauty and elegance in their faces. Again, this is really causing me to look at my own environment here in Riyadh. Simply wonderful!
"Saudis" by Heather McClellan. This image is shared by permission from Heather McClellan. Please do not copy or share this image.

Asma Tariq's miniature paintings immediately captured my attention when I entered the gallery. Exquisitely framed, they drew my eye the marvelous detail and forms of the paintings. As I mentioned earlier, Asma Tariq paints in the Mughal style (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mughal_painting) which is an art form that very few artists in the world still use. Her paintings represent months of painstaking painting and burnishing as she creates these miniature works of art. I thought this painting was just lovely. I love the grace, form, and beauty of the women in the picture. I love the movement of her body and her clothing. Then the curves are mimicked in the border. I spent quite a bit of time examining the picture. Really beautiful!
"Rhythm within" by Asma Tariq  (Mughal style Miniature Gauce on Wasli with Pure Gold).   For more information please contact Asma at asma_tariz@hotmail.com or visit her Facebook page at Asma's Painting Art

I truly enjoyed the evening as I looked at the different works of art. I realized after listening to the artists talk about their work, that painting and creating is a way for these women to process and think about the world and their own lives. This is very much the way I feel about writing, scrapbooking, and music. When I write, I process what I see, what I feel, and what I learn. I often walk away from an experience and write about it and come to greater understanding of that experience, because of the writing. With my scrapbooking, I am processing my own family's story as we move through this life. Scrapbooking brings me joy as I chronicle my children's development and growth. It also allows me to relive wonderful experiences we share as a family. And music gives me an outlet for my emotions. When I'm feeling down, singing or playing the piano, or both, lifts me and allows me time to just feel. I felt a bit of a kinship with these artists. We may not create the same way, but our creations allow all of us to find meaning and value in the world in which we live.

I look forward to more evenings with the Art and Design Society of KSA. 

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