The current edition is called “Contemporary Calligraphy” and was curated by Dr. Rawaa Bakhsh. The exhibition falls during the Saudi Ministry of Culture’s Year of Arabic Calligraphy. “We thought it would be appropriate to join the celebration,” Bakhsh told Arab News.
Artists from across the Kingdom answered the open call for the event and the judging panel selected 19 artists to participate. Some already had original works ready to be exhibited, while the others presented their proposals and received help from experts at the gallery to develop and execute their ideas.
Artist Hind Alghamdi carved a wooden wheel-shaped sculpture decorated in Kufic script with the Quranic verse, “Guide us to the straight path,” and was inspired by driving around the Kingdom. “I chose this verse because humans will always be searching for the right path,” Alghamdi said. “This was my first time using this medium and my first time using Kufic script.”
Another participant, 37-year-old Sama Bahajri, exhibited a piece called “As Promised.” It consists of an embroidered textile that is bright white at the top and becomes progressively darker towards the bottom. The darkness, she explained, represents “evil thoughts,” while her embroidered circles reflect how such thoughts can gather.
“This is a visual interpretation of the verse where God promises Prophet Mohammad that He will protect him against the people who were plotting to kill him,” Bahajri explained to Arab News.
Not all the pieces on display were inspired by Quranic verses. An eye-catching work by Zainab Alshibani titled “1001 Nights” was inspired by anthropomorphic and zoomorphic Arabic scripts.
The YSA program, which began in 2011, aims to promote Saudi-based artists on the international stage. The program is designed to help young artists conceptualize their work and develop their projects while allowing them to exhibit in a professional context, collaborate with a curator, and expose their work to criticism and the marketplace.
“YSA has had many contemporary artists that are now big names in the art world. Our founders contributed in creating a beautiful batch of contemporary artists that are now internationally known,” Bakhsh said.