By Lulwa Shalhoub
Art lovers can mark their calendars, as the contemporary art scene in Jeddah is about to get busy starting Thursday.
An exhibition entitled “And Along Came Polyester” is opening at Athr art platform, based at Serafi Mega Mall’s office towers, featuring five solo presentations by female artists from the Gulf.
The exhibition, alongside two others opening on the same day, is part of the 21,39 Jeddah Arts non-profit initiative organized by the Saudi Art Council.
“This is the first time to host five women from the (Gulf) region to present at Athr,” Leila Evangelista, one of the organizers at Athr, told Arab News.
“The story behind the title of the exhibition is that polyester is a material derivative from oil. Oil has been the main source of economic strength in the area from which the artists come.”
The artists express their personal reflections of economic, domestic, architectural, nostalgic and cathartic processes and fluxes within their work.
“They and their observed surroundings are a result of a singular discovery that affected their already constantly shifting geopolitical, socioeconomic and religious communities,” Evangelista said.
From Saudi Arabia, Sarah Abu Abdullah’s exhibition “18 Blankets” is an experiential art project she uses as a vehicle to showcase the absurdity of reconstructing daily life in the context of domesticity.
Her work, to which her family and friends have contributed, unravels the “processes” of home, a journey mangled and untangled by the uncanny familiar within private domestic spaces.
Through her exhibition “The Shift,” Qatari artist Aisha Al-Sowaidi attempts to shift the dynamics in traditionally used objects and furniture.
She focuses on the “majlis,” redesigning core elements in its main function. With a sense of nostalgia, her artwork suggests that through having these objects in the memory, they can compel you to traverse through emotions.
Hala Al-Khalifa’s exhibition “She Wore Her Scars Like Wings” demonstrates a journey of healing for the Bahraini artist.
The artworks — covered in thick strokes of paint, interrupted with bold lines of color — depict deformed and mangled wings rising from the collision of strokes and dripping paint.
They provoke an emotional response, and realize a moment of intimacy and vulnerability, but also strength and perseverance.
Her works attempt to shed light on our emotional state, and pose as reminders of our natural ability to heal and overcome.
Emirati artist Layla Juma employs through her exhibition “A Still Moment in Thought & Spatial Perception” repetitive, geometric shapes to create rhythmic sequences and forms.
In her work, these shapes and rhythms are crafted to conceptually articulate the ever-changing architectural landscapes of the present and the imagination of their future.
Her recurrent, ruminating meditations consider the influence and impact of spatial arrangements.
Coming from Kuwait, Monira Al-Qadiri’s exhibition “Legacy” draws an unusual connection between black pearls and oil, emphasizing that they share the same color scheme on opposite ends of the dichroic color spectrum.
It highlights the exploitation of these two materials at various points in history, and how that has been fundamental to the cultural and economic life of the Gulf.
Al-Qadiri’s art installation likens the heads of oil drills to intruders from another planet. The substance of oil is an alien intruder that dramatically altered the historical narrative of an entire region.
Thursday will also mark the start of what 21,39 says is the “largest art event in Jeddah.” The day will witness the opening of the Tadafuq Group and Tasami exhibitions, and the launch of a series of art-related talks and panel discussions under the three-day Safar Forum.
Athr is collaborating with street food caterer Krab Load to bring together 20 food vendors to the On the Terrace rooftop open gathering that starts at 8 p.m.