‘Light Upon Light’ a groundbreaking lighting extravaganza for Saudi culture

March 21, 2021

Saudi Gazette report

RIYADH — The “Light Upon Light” Exhibition, which is being held at the King Abdullah Financial District as part of the first edition of Noor Riyadh, is the largest group art exhibition that monitors the artistic movement in the lighting arts since 1960s until todate.

It includes 30 masterworks of light art divided into four sectional “rays” that survey light as an artistic medium: “Perceiving Light,” “Experiencing Light,” “Projecting Light,” and “Environmental Light.” Each ray blends time and unites established artists of diverse geographic origin.

From immersive installation to video and sculpture, visitors to “Light Upon Light” will experience a richly illuminated exhibition in all its spatial and sensory phenomena.

This historical presentation of light art is a groundbreaking event for culture in Saudi Arabia.

Noor Riyadh, one of the world’s most exciting festivals of light and art combining the highest quality of light artworks across the city, began on March 18 and will run through until April 3. Filled with spectacular installations, the fest will light up the night sky of the capital city of Riyadh.

The “Projecting Light,” pavilion presents artworks that use the transmission of light to create the work instead of focusing on light as a medium.

This artistic style arose with the spread of the use of luminous lanterns during the Industrial Revolution in the late 18th century through using glass slides on different surfaces, and with the technical development, this method is no longer needed, but rather it has become possible to reflect and project light rays using modern technologies such as films, video tapes, and x-rays.

Artists participating in this pavilion use different methods of reflection and projection of light, which contribute to introducing the elements that characterize their artwork.

In 2019, Saudi artist Sultan Bin Fahd worked on the art piece titled “Once he was a ruler”, which is a collection of photographs, in which ancient sculptures depicting the kings of the ancient Lihyan Kingdom in Northern Arabia are shown, where he modified them by placing layers of X-ray images, and these images were collected, superimposed in illuminated light boxes at the event.

Through his abstract drawings, paintings, sculptures and installations, the artist tackled cultural issues related to his homeland in the Kingdom. The artist also re-narrates historical stories and novels using art, and transmits these narratives through contemporary means to reconstruct them with a personal character.

While Saudi artist Dana Awartani is participating in the event with her work “Divan Al Majhoul 2021, which combined textiles, hand embroidery and poetry.

It was presented through 3D mapping on the surface of a large book that takes the form of an accordion, as it aims to revive traditional engineering and historical manufacturing patterns, depending on the craft traditional and craftsmanship practices, as well as the traceability of many styles and mediums, including performance, illumination of complex scrolls, parquet arts, ceramics, embroidery and dyes.

The world-renowned Pakistani artist Anila Quayyum Agha displayed her Hidden Diamond — Saffron, 2019. She was inspired for her laser-cut and lacquered steel work by visits to Alhambra in Spain.

It is a single light installed in the ceiling that radiates through a laser-cut box suspended in the center of the room, forming the existing geometric lines. In her work, shadows cover walls, floor, ceiling and even visitors, aimed to explore global politics, multiculturalism, media, and social roles in the cultural and global scenario.

The Saudi artist Maha Mallouh transformed a series of pictures into a work of art entitled “Capture the Light, 2010, using X-rays for her collections since childhood, as the artist was influenced by her spiritual connection to the historical Najd region, as well as her strong religious and cultural heritage, apart from colorful ornate fabrics and ancient Najd architecture. Together, these elements left a great impression on her artwork.

Ayman Yossri Daydban, another Saudi artist, in his design “Somewhere Beautiful, 2021” relied on groups of multiple screens that display scenes taken from a large number of documentaries and news reports that contributed to shaping the features of his life and the lives of those around him, all of which were displayed at a very high speed.

Saudi physician and plastic artist Ahmed Mater presented his work Mitochondria: Powerhouses, 2021, which reflects unfamiliar forces and natural resources. The work includes a tool used to induce electromagnetic induction to achieve a flow of lightning flashes, and a series of sculptures made of glass sand that are formed when lightning strikes Earth.

His work documents and scrutinizes the realities of contemporary Saudi Arabia. This work is presented for the first time in an outdoor setting, consisting of a central Tesla coil, along with sculptures from fulgurite tubes that are placed on a circular sand bank, and the light flash produced by a Tesla coil is accompanied by a natural electrical sound.

Saudi artist Ahmad Angawi’s work “Ratio of Light, 2021” sheds light on modern practices in his traditional works to define the origin and function of the traditional Arabian Al-Munjur craft, which is rich in complex architectural elements. The design of this artwork is based on an intertwining grid system of wood connected to an engraved surface.

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