Ricochet: Five Emerging Artists From Saudi Arabia Explored In New Exhibition

Emerging Artists From Saudi Arabia

An exhibition entitled Ricochet, is on from the 12 October 2015, at Asia House, during Frieze week. It explores the practice of five Emerging Artists from Saudi Arabia. New and recent work by both Men and Women is presented in this groundbreaking show. Leading Saudi artist Abdulnasser Gharem alongside work by other artists from Saudi Arabia is a must see during London art week. The artists have been developing at GS, a space established by Abdulnasser Gharem in 2010 in the capital city of Riyadh, in order to teach the next generation about contemporary art. The participating artists are Shaweesh, Dhafer Alshehr, Ajlan Gharem, Njoud Alanbari and Abdulnasser Gharem.

The participating artists have come together in recent years as part of an organic and progressive movement established through GS. Due to an absence of art schools in the Gulf countries, GS is one of the only places in Saudi Arabia where artists can talk freely and learn about contemporary art. Enabling new forms of cultural expression through a programme of educational activity, GS creates a framework for artists to explore their individual and collective vision of the local culture, and its interaction with the rest of the world.

Taking the concept of ‘ricochet’ as its central theme, the exhibition investigates the idea that actions taken by a country’s authorities could cause direct, or indirect, chain reactions. Each of the participating artists will be presenting work that culminates as a creative force expressed through a variety of mediums including photography, sculpture, video art, art installations and performances.

Award-winning photographer Dhafer Alshehr will show a new series of photographs reflecting the French philosopher Gustave Le Bon’s ‘The Origin of Crowd Psychology’, depicting crowds of Muslims engaged in varying social, religious and cultural activities. A highlight from the series includes ‘Prayer’ (2013), depicting a rare moment of Sunni and Shia Muslims praying together.

Njoud Alanbari is an interior designer who has been hired by the Saudi government to restructure the all-girls schools in Saudi Arabia. Alanbari will present a new video work for Ricochet, exploring issues relating to the regulations forced on women within the educational space in Saudi Arabia. 

Ajlan Gharem will exhibit ‘Paradise Has Many Gates’ (2015), a video documenting the installation of a 10 x 30m cage transformed into the shape of a mosque and installed in the desert outside Riyadh. Videos of performances that took place in the mosque, influenced by the work of French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, will also form part of Gharem’s presentation.

Young street artist Shaweesh will present a new sculptural work in the classical Roman style. The sculpture, entitled ‘Iconoclasm’ (2015), represents the desire for peaceful practice of religion, in opposition to the use of religion to spread fear.

Abdulnasser Gharem is widely considered to be one of the most influential artists working in the Gulf today. Drawing on his previous experience as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Saudi Arabian army, Gharem’s work reflects on themes of Islamic cultural identity and the need to remove itself from historical shackles to embrace modern day knowledge and thought. Gharem’s use of different forms of arabesques and geometric patterns are merged together to encourage unity in the Islamic world and to prevent the creation of barriers which lead to political disparity and social disruption.

Gharem will present a number of new works, including a new sculpture and a new video work. The video, ‘Aniconism’ (2015) tackles the taboo subject of female nudity in the Arab World. In this region, depictions of naked women, even in the form of mannequins, are strictly forbidden. The performative work shows 22 Saudi artists using a plastic model of a naked woman for a life class. The figures are arranged in a position that plays on motifs found in Western art history, while commenting on the challenges Saudi artists face, accessing opportunities available to artists in other parts of the world. The work demonstrates the will of artists in the country to overcome barriers and engage with aesthetics at the core of art history. Gharem will also present new sculpture and a painting, titled ‘Ricochet’ for which the exhibition takes its name, relating to the subject of war and ideology in the Muslim world.

The artists in the exhibition are: 

Dhafer Alshehr (b.1979, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia)

Winner of numerous international photography prizes, young Saudi street photographer Shafer Al Sheri (b.1979, lives and works in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia). His keen eye for composition and social commentary, and in particular his depiction of traditional subjects in modern contexts, are the trademarks of his work, which bears witness to the transition of Saudi society from the old to the new.

Njoud Alanbari (b. 1989, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia)

Njoud Alanbari, born and raised in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and graduated from Prince Sultan University, College of Architecture and Design. Njoud started working with Gharem Studio Inc in 2014 as a mixed media artist. She extracts inspiration and ideas through her work for the Saudi Commission for Heritage and Antiques, as well as through her work teaching art to disadvantaged children. Her work explores the threads that combine culture and community through crucial points of interaction such as the topic of education for women. As a Saudi female, she hopes to fulfil a message by merging heritage into the 21st century using culture and basic humanity as her primary source of inspiration.

Ajlan Gharem (b.1985, Khamis Mushayt, Saudi Arabia)

Born in 1985 in Khamis Mushayt in the South of Saudi Arabia, Ajlan Gharem moved to Abha to pursue an undergraduate degree in Mathematics at King Khalid University. Now a maths teacher in Alsahabah Public School in Riyadh, Ajlan is a co-founder of Gharem Studio, which supports artists from the Middle East.

Shaweesh (b.1989, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia)

Shaweesh is a young Saudi artist based in Riyadh, part of a growing movement of young street artists in the country. As a self-taught artist, he has gained six years of experience creating digital art and graffiti on a daily basis and has participated in several exhibitions locally and internationally. These include Edge of Arabia’s exhibition Come Together (2013) and Edition #1 (2013) in London, RHIZOMA (Generation in The Waiting) at the Venice Biennale (2013), Art Space (2013) in Dubai as well as surpassing estimates at the Young Collectors Auction with Ayyam Gallery in Dubai and Jeddah. In September 2013, at the Young Collectors Auction 16, his United Nations (King Faisal & Yoga) sold for nine times above estimate. 

Ricochet: Asia House, 63 New Cavendish Street, London W1G 7LP 12 – 18 October 2015, 9am – 6pm Monday to Friday; 10am – 5:45pm on Saturday & Sunday