Saudi Arabia Visa London UK: In a vast basement area of the University of Westminster in Central London is a small piece of Saudi Arabia. The underground

space houses AmbikaP3 art gallery which recently showcased the degree work of final year art students. Among the graduates was Wejdan Reda, who curated an exhibit called ‘Exclusion’ featuring the work of four contemporary Saudi female artists. Their work is shown within a representation of a traditional, segregated, Saudi house typical of those found in the Hejaz region; an important element is the focus within this structure on the separate spaces for men and women.

The space that is off limits to men is where you can see emotions that women prefer to express to other women in a setting that is private and reserved exclusively for them. Here you find a very raw piece of work called ‘Epidermis’ by Wa’ad Al-Mujalli. It is a digital video piece of an anguished figure that has the appearance and malleability of clay — not fully formed and pulsating with energy and emotion.

Such unfiltered emotions can safely be expressed in the closed female area, in an atmosphere of tolerance and acceptance but would not normally be seen outside in public, explained Reda.

إAlongside this intense piece is a more light-hearted video showing women wearing abayas and headscarves and carrying brightly colored handbags enjoying a dodgem ride. This is Arwa Al-Neami’s ‘Never Never Land II,’ 2014, shot in a theme park in Mahrajan Abha. To western eyes the unusual aspect is that this is a ride reserved exclusively for women. But what emerges strongly from the image is that everyone seems relaxed and to be having fun in a completely natural way. The onlookers, including men, clearly see nothing out of the ordinary in this scene.

In the space open to men there is a piece by Meaad Talal Hanafi entitled ‘I Looking at I.’ The abstract is accompanied by the words ‘Ignorance.’ ‘Slavery,’ ‘Freedom,’ ‘Reflexion’ and ‘Weakened Spirit,’ Speaking of this work, she commented: “This is an abstract painting of both of one’s selves in a silent dialogue with each another. Filled with rage and disappointments about each other for they have failed themselves in blending in with the rest of society, fearing its judgment; a reflection of a woman’s expression against her surroundings.

The color palette is expressing an outrage with flamed colors putting a larger focus on the black as its main color to attract one’s attention to detail. Arabic calligraphy is also incorporated to magnify the expression to the max with little focus on its specifics to trigger the viewer’s imagination and not limiting it.”

In the women’s private space is another work by Hanafi entitled ‘I,’ accompanied by the words, ‘Demise,’ ‘Love,’ ‘Foresight’ and ‘Heart,’ Speaking of this piece she commented: “This is an abstract painting of one’s soul with a glimpse of a more joyful and cheerful experience. A reminder of how beautiful things may be if one would look at it from a different perspective. It’s the ultimate state of victory anyone wants to seek. Arabic calligraphy is also incorporated displaying love and affection.”

Hanafi is a self-taught artist and a senior undergraduate architecture student. She is currently studying and working part-time as a graphic designer in Jeddah. She describes herself, not as an artist, but as an “expressionist on the way to exploring my true self through art.” She hopes to combine this art journey with her architecture and to build her own design house. She is now working on several, self-funded art projects with the aim of making the work more widely accessible and ‘living the experience to the fullest.”

Exclusion’ also features work by the Olympic runner Sarah Attar. The beautiful images shot in a translucent light come from her Fire Series, 2013. She explained: “This specific body of work was a reflection of my experience as one of the first females to compete for Saudi Arabia in the London Olympics. I wanted to address and reflect on the more personal side of such a high profile, and publicized event. These photo-composites are a symbolic internalization of this experience. The photos fill the figure creating one unique image. This ultimately acts as a visual representation of how the experiences are part of me; that they don’t just belong to the public eye and media outlets.

Photography seems to be how I address experiences and places: It becomes my own interpretation of my environment. I combined my photographs with the silhouette self-portraits, which allowed me to connect with them, and ultimately the experiences, on a deeper level. The silhouette also provides anonymity. While some of the scenes in the photos may be recognizable, such as the Olympic torch, the silhouette provides a new way for people to address these scenes on a more personal level, in their own way becoming the silhouetted figure.”

A part of the structure within the women’s space shows the window grilles, Rawasheen, through which women can observe the outside world without being seen. Reda pointed out that from this concealed vantage point the women view the world from an elevated position which in a sense conveys power.

She explained that she wanted the work to show both the negative and positive aspects of the culture in a multi-layered way.

Exclusion’ which formed part of Reda’s final degree work demonstrates the story she wants to convey through her curating and her instincts as an artist. She has graduated from Westminster with First Class Honors and will now do a Masters at Goldsmiths, University of London.

Initially, she set out to study architecture and did a foundation course to prepare for this career path at the American University of Sharjah. However, during a visit to Dubai Media City she became fascinated by the art she saw in the galleries and paused her studies to rethink her focus. Encouraged by her fiancé to follow her dreams and take the time to figure out the best path before committing to a six year architecture degree course, she then did a foundation course in Art & Design at Kingston University.

At this point she still had an open mind about her future, but after attending an open day at the University of Westminster she found herself drawn to the BA degree course in Contemporary Media.

She is keen to specialize in curating and is excited by the burgeoning art scene in Saudi Arabia where so many galleries and museums are now flourishing. When she returns to her home town of Jeddah she says that she sees her culture with a fresh eye and perspective and regards herself as fortunate to experience two cultures. She concluded: “I want to work in contemporary Middle Eastern Art especially focusing on female artists. With conservative cultures it is important to see what is hidden.” Source: arabnews