Saudi Arabia will take part in the 58th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia with a presentation of new work by celebrated land artist Zahrah Al Ghamdi. Her exhibition After Illusion follows Saudi Arabia’s successful presentation at Biennale Architettura 2018. Zahrah Al Ghamdi is known for her site-specific installations that are assembled using natural materials such as sand, rocks and leather.
For the exhibition After Illusion, Zahrah Al Ghamdi will demonstrate the intimate tactile encounter she undergoes in the process of making the work that exhibits her master craftsmanship. The exhibition aims to recognise, reconnect, and revisit a feeling where one tries to explore something new but rather familiar; a step into an imaginary world created by the artist to seek comfort in her journey towards self-realisation. After Illusion is curated by Eiman Elgibreen, to reflect on the history of Saudi Arabia and its identity. The team is guided by Project Advisor, Nada Shabout.
The title After Illusion is inspired by a line from an ancient Arabic poem written by Zuhayr bin Abī Sūlmā (b.520 – d.609), in which he described his struggle to recognise his home after being away for twenty years. Only ‘illusion’ helped the eighty-year-old poet recognise it – a state of mind that we fight during our search for the ‘truth’ but somehow it paves a path to it. Old Arabic poetry is cherished by many Saudis as an important substitute source of ‘truth’, inspiration and a resort for those who seek assurance.
Eiman Elgibreen, curator of the exhibition, said: “Saudis have long been living in interesting times. Their complicated sociocultural history has forced them, and others, to be seen as interesting. There is a sense of lost cultural and historical agency due to the hegemony of global discourse. Their significance has been encapsulated within two narrow historical moments: the emergence of Islam and the discovery of oil, leaving them confused on how to perceive their history outside of those moments, particularly with the absence of visual evidence.”
“After Illusion is an exhibition that offers an attempt to meditate on the value of ‘uncertainty’ in opening new doors to self-awareness and transformation.”
Stills from the installation from Saudi Pavilion at 58th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia.
Zahrah Al Ghamdi was born 1977 in Al Bahah and now lives and works in Jeddah. Her work focuses on the memory of traditional architecture from south western Saudi Arabia. Known primarily as a land artist, Al Ghamdi’s practice involves the use of natural materials to create site-specific installations. Growing up in the south western region of Saudi Arabia, surrounded by traditional Aseeri architecture, has played an integral role in her practice. Al Ghamdi exhibited in London in 2017 as part of the Shubbak Festival of Arab Culture, producing a large site-specific installation in the British Museum’s Great Court in front of a live audience.
Al Ghamdi graduated with a First Class degree from King Abdulaziz University in 2003 and graduated from Coventry University in 2009 with an MA in Contemporary Craft. Al Ghamdi also has a PhD in Design and Visual Arts from Coventry University. Al Ghamdi is currently a faculty member of the Islamic Arts Department at King Abdulaziz University.
The Saudi National Pavilion is supported by the Ministry of Culture of Saudi Arabia and commissioned by Misk Art Institute.