Saudi art fuses new styles with traditional influences

Aventurina King, TAIPEI, Taiwan, Special to The China Post

Yesterday, an anachronism appeared on the fourth floor of the Taipei National History Museum like a desert breeze. The hanging paintings brandished their bright colors like fierce harbingers of the future and progress. Yet, in front of these, the artists calmly posed, images of their culture’s past. Around their tanned faces and broad shoulders floated the veils of the traditional Saudi Arabian costume. Yesterday, four of the six artists featured in the museum’s new exhibition of Saudi Arabian contemporary painters came to present their works. The six painters are members of the Riyadh Fine Art Group, a gathering of the leading contemporary artists of Saudi Arabia.

The Taipei National History Museum invited this institution to increase cultural exchanges between Taiwan and Saudi Arabia. These exchanges were initiated when the museum was invited to hold the “2002 Taiwan Art Display” in Riyadh. The exhibition features more than 50 paintings. Even though the six artists have the same traditional Islamic art background, through time their artistic paths have separated. As a result, the six groups of paintings differ greatly. Though for these artists finding their own voices did not mean relinquishing their culture. All of the works contain elements of traditional Middle Eastern art. In Fawaz Abunayan’s works, patterns of trees flourish over zig-zagging fabric designs to remind us of the country’s complex wall carvings.

Ali Ruzaiza mixes media to create gilded images of Saudi Arabia’s architecture. One of his pieces, “morning of the country” depicts a typical house entrance. A closed door stands alongside a yawning shutter. Their complex decorations compliment the surrounding bare walls. The sun strikes the scene with a golden hue. Sameer Al-Daham contemplates his paintings with a look of nostalgia. “All of my works are about my culture and it’s development over time,” he said. In his close to abstract rendering of an old port, a bubble of paint in the top right represents the structure as it was. The surrounding patchwork of fading rectangles constructs the present.

Each of the artworks harmoniously blend time in a different way. Open until July the 25th, this exhibition displays a fruitful collaboration of the past and the present.