In Focus: Saudi Art Scene 

In Focus: Saudi Art Scene 

'Suspended' By Abdullah Al Othman


By Mariam Nihal

For ‘Safar’, 21,39 Jeddah Arts, Saudi artist Abdullah Al-Othman, used Al-Khunji Al-Kabir, an abandoned 19th century women’s shelter, in Balad for his project.

Al-Othman created an intervention in Al-Khunji Al-Kabir to install a renewed notion of its architectural style. 

He wrapped the entire building in tin foil to symbolise its forlorn, forgotten and  frozen-in-time state. 

The neighbours woke up to a bizarre, yet familiar structure in a place they faintly recognised as the shelter. The sun shines upon the foil reflecting vast rays that light up the entire neighbourhood and inspire onlookers. 

‘Suspend’ can be described as prohibiting someone from holding their usual post or carrying out their usual role for a length of time. Applying this to architecture, Al-Othman uses the force by wrapping up the entire building as if testing time and people around it. Perhaps making it disappear, unknown, yet known and  profoundly reinstating its presence.

“The tin foil is a very motivating material to work with for me. I always reshape tin foil. I use it in my art and I use in my kitchen to preserve food. I had the idea of looking for the elements of foil in nature and analyze how they are used. I implemented the idea on Al-Khunji house in Saudi Hijazi architecture,” Al-Othman told Saudi Gazette. 

Al-Othman uses ‘safar ‘ to create a experience that allows one to travel through time. 

“Participating in this project opens room for dialogue and change. I had people from the area help implement this project. The project really brought a different atmosphere to the place. The joy of discovering this building over and over again with different people was truly a bonding moment. My biggest challenge was completing this project in time,” he said.

Contemplating the state of art in the Kingdom, he believes the country needs more social awareness of art, supportive art institutes and more art displays in public spaces and museums.

“I see a great development and opportunity in art. My dream is to implement my work in every city in the Kingdom and to turn the scenery into a theatrical one,” he added.

“21,39” is a non-profit initiative organized by the Saudi Art Council. It is an annual city-wide initiative that includes a range of activities and workshops in Jeddah.

Instagram: @abdullalothman