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RIYADH: Visitors to Wadi Hanifa, a vast valley in Riyadh lined with palm trees and streams, were greeted last weekend by a number of new large-scale contemporary public artworks created by Saudi and international artists .
The installations are part of Noor Riyadh, an annual festival of light and art featuring more than 190 works by approximately 130 Saudi and international artists from more than 40 countries. They are on display until November 19 in 40 locations across five main centers in Riyadh.
Children played football in front of ‘A Thousand Galaxies of Light’, a work by Puerto Rican-American artist Gisela Colon, which consists of an elliptical configuration of 100 vertical tubes of white light, each measuring 2.5 meters in height. high.
Colon, who also participated in the first edition of Desert X AlUla in 2020, said he was inspired by physics, cosmology and biology for this work, which imagines a forest of mythical horizons pointing metaphorically to a vibrant future, in line with Noor Riyad’s theme this year: “We dream of new horizons”.
On a nearby main thoroughfare, passers-by can see choreographer, dancer and artist Sarah Brahim’s installation, “De Anima,” with images projected under a bridge in the Wadi Hanifa wetlands.
“In this work, I was inspired by the way light enters through the body and exits in different ways,” Brahim told Arab News.
“The work re-theorizes Aristotle’s text ‘De Anima’ and examines five different souls at five different times of the day, about how light animates the soul and the essence of life. Each person represents a physical and metaphorical type of light.
Brahim also emphasizes the use of time in his piece. Visitors to the installation are offered headphones through which they can listen to a soundtrack while viewing the images.
Another work exhibited in Wadi Hanifah is “Ghosts of Today and Tomorrow” by Saudi multimedia artist Ahaad Alamoudi, a performative installation that considers the role of light as a natural carrier of information. It is made up of two old dovecotes, alluding to the historic use of pigeons as carriers of messages, and a singer who performs a mawwal, a type of traditional Arabic song, while light shines through the openings in each tower .
“The meaning of light is very accessible and appropriate for a city like Riyadh,” Miguel Blanco-Carrasco, executive director of Noor Riyadh, told Arab News. “The city comes alive after sunset because of Riyadh’s temperature and geography.”
In the evenings, many residents often go out for dinner or spend time in the city’s many parks. As a result, the festival was designed to install the art in some of the places in Riyadh where people were most likely to see it.
“Light is a medium accessible to everyone, regardless of their level of education, class or understanding of contemporary art,” Blanco-Carrasco said. “We want to bring art everywhere and we want to make it accessible to everyone.”
Another Noor Riyadh highlight is “I See You Brightest in the Dark” by Saudi artist Muhannad Shono, which is featured at Bayt Al-Malaz.
“God willing, everything will be resolved,” by Saudi-Palestinian artist Ayman Yossri Daydban, uses carefully chosen stills from captioned films to create a work that paints Arabic script with light.
It is inspired by the commonly used Arabic phrase, ‘Inshallah’ which means ‘God willing’, which is rendered in large neon white text on the structure of the abandoned hospital in Irqah. It overlooks the abandoned cityscape that surrounds it, breathing new life into a space now largely devoid of human presence.
“Carving the Future”, by Saudi artist Obaid Al-Safi, is presented in a desert landscape. With the work, the artist questions the relationship between the desert and the civilization that emerged from it, questioning the links between the ancient past of the Kingdom and its more recent transformations.
Saudi artist Ayman Zedani’s moving “Between Biotic and Bionic” in Riyadh’s Olaya neighborhood explores how in cities across the Gulf region nature is increasingly experienced as simulacra or imitations, like man-made rainforests or neon jungles, blurring the distinction. between the real and the artificial.
It brings together, in Zedani’s signature style, elements of light, sound, sculpture, and nature in welded metal structures that are covered with resurrection plants, which are types of plants that can survive periods of extreme dehydration, in a nod to the desert. landscape and the effects of climate change.
A textual work by Joel Andrianomearisoa, Malagasy artist, is essential. Set in the King Abdullah financial district and created using neon and metal, it relays the message “On a Never-Ending Horizon, a Future Nostalgia to Keep the Present Alive”, which is about love, hopes and dreams for the future.
Noor Riyadh is the first program implemented under the auspices of Riyadh Art, the Kingdom’s first public art initiative. It aims to transform the city into a “gallery without walls”, to beautify it and to strengthen the creative spirit of the population.
One of its goals, Blanco-Carrasco said, is to “remove any preconceptions of contemporary art as accessible only to elites; we want to make it accessible to everyone in Riyadh. Noor Riyadh is their party.