This suggests another realm from which I might be able to draw, using both design elements and textures. Clothing, whether truly traditional or the modern degradations of the older textile traditions, could also prove to be a source of materials for my own work.
My research will involve both academic research into contemporary and past art and craft practices in Saudi Arabia as well as an artistic exploration into the incorporation of unconventional materials into works relevant for today's society. I plan to use unconventional materials in my sculptures such as waste and discarded materials, leather, wood, plastic, and glass. This is the new point in my work, using materials that many people will not see as being properly the building materials of art. Making art that reclaims discarded materials will be one by which I will make work that is -- especially within the realm of Saudi expressive culture -- both innovative and disruptive. and, having drawn in observers through such innovation, I hope to get them to linger on the traditional elements of my pieces so that they will begin to question how materials, design, innovation, and tradition can be arranged in so many different ways.
One of the issues that I will be considering as I pursue this project is the ways in which public and private are designated in Saudi houses. The following describes a neo-traditional house that establishes this boundary in a traditional manner:
Al-'Udhaibat easily charms visitors with its gentle interplays among mass, textures, colors, light and shadow along with breezes and temperature. Like all traditional Najdi houses, it has smooth exterior walls of undecorated adobe plaster that belie a colorful interior. Plank doors and shutters are painted using traditional pattern designs & #8230;. intricate frescoes in carved gypsum plaster (juss) decorate walls and bright, handcrafted cushions and rugs furnish the courtyard and interiors with patterns based on deep reds that complement the ochre plaster walls.
At the entrance, the division between the public and the private realm is firm, which is traditional in Najd. A massive, intricately decorated door swings open toward the blank wall of the reception foyer, in the traditional "bent entrance" that obstructs views into the interior. The long, high-ceilinged main men's reception room, the diwaniyyah, is adjacent to this entrance, and can be entered without viewing the family quarters. It has the highest ceiling of all the seven rooms in the single-story house, and a row of white columns marches down its center. (Facey, 1999)
In my own work I will problematize such distinctions.
Decorative elements on buildings have traditionally been used as a way of both welcoming the guest and excluding the desert:
The decoration of space and facade is one of the most identifiable architectural features of the elite residential buildings in the central region of Saudi Arabia. The purpose of decoration and coloring is to attract viewer's attention and to enhance the aesthetic quality of space. The ornamentation of these houses is the product of an age of hospitality. A warm welcome and the best food and drink are complemented by an attractive space in which to entertain the guest. Decorated architectural elements include interior walls, alcoves and cupboards and the ornamentation and coloring of doors and windows in the guest reception area. (Saleh, 2001).
I would like the audience to see the echo of the past in the contemporary designs in my work, to be able to see that it is possible to interlace tradition and innovation like the layers on a cake. I see this project, both in terms of my scholarly examination of Saudi craft, artistic, and architectural practices and in terms of my creating a new body of work as being an essential and vital exercise for me as an artist. It is all too easy as an artist to find something that one is good at and then to continue doing it. There is both intellectual and technical safety in doing so. I do not want this to happen to me in my practice as an artist.
This body of work (and the work that comes before it) will be an act of clarification of my position as an artist. Such moments are crucial in the arc of every artist's biography: Every artist should learn how to define her own philosophy in order to be able to defend both to herself and to others the meaning and process and one's goals as an artist. These may not end up being apparent to one's audiences, but it is imperative that as an artist one seeks such clarity. The project design described below will help blend my intellectual and artistic investigations.
In order to understand the contemporary and historical context for my artistic practice I will enquire into the current status of art works in Saudi Arabia through the following steps. These are suggested by previous research that I have done, my praxis as an artist, and by similar projects that combine academic interests with the desire to make some changes for good in the world (McNiff, n.d.). There is nothing, I believe, that should act as a barrier between academia and art, although there a number of both scholars and artists would argue that they are very different beasts indeed. But I believe that art and scholarship can not only inform each other but, when combined, can act to do real good in the world. In the case of this project, that "good" will be the chance to provide Saudi as well as Western audiences a chance to re-evaluate the ways in which Saudi art traditions can meet and mesh with modernity and postmodernity. To this end:
I will review my understanding of the artistic concepts of the traditional architectural decorations so as to generate innovative designs in my own work.
I will research the role of the unconventional materials in the ideological culture of Saudi society and as used by Saudi artists.
I will research the incorporation and manipulation of unconventional materials in contemporary Western art and consider the cultural differences between those of Saudi Arabia and those in Western art practices.
I will research the works of artists and the writings of art critics to understand how material, techniques and modern theory affected the contemporary ideas.
The specific research methodology that I will base this project on will include a number of different strategies, drawing on traditional academic research blended with ethnographic interviews of artists working with the same concepts. To this end I will conduct:
Examinations of books, articles, and journals concerned with the traditional decorations.
Interviews with Saudi artists concerned with contemporary art and contemporary Western whose works are relevant to my study.
Interviews with British artists whose work encompasses relevant issues.
The practical aspect of this work will comprise a number of create a body of artwork, specifically a body of work of contemporary sculptures. Each piece will incorporate different kinds of unconventional materials. I will incorporate phenomenological inquiries one of the bases for my work as it will help in expanding my . It will also serve to create pieces that will both allow and require Saudi artists and Saudi viewers to engage with innovative and novel art forms.
Saleh (2001) argues that elements of architecture as well as other Southern Saudi artforms are "rooted in liefs, myths and fable which were dated to pre-Islam; the desert scenes and nomadic life.... To appeal to the aesthetic and visual sensibility of the viewer, the indigenous artist infused his composition with strands and colors of desert life.... Evolution is achieved through modification of the original forms into abstract ones. Such abstract shapes become pure motifs." I want to claim these ancient traditions as my own and -- without being disrespectful of the original artists -- make them my own as I ask modern Saudis to question who they are as a desert people in a shifting world.
Facey, W. Building on the past. Retrieved 24 April 2010 from http://www.saudiaramcoworld.com/issue/199904/al-.udhaibat-building.on.the.past.htm
McNiff, J. (n.d.) Learning with and from people in townships and universities. A paper presented at the American Educational Research Association Annual Meeting, as part of the symposium Communicating and testing the validity of claims to transformational systemic influence for civic responsibility.
Nawaab, N.I. (1998). The suqs of 'Asir. Retrieved 24 April 2010 from http://www.saudiaramcoworld.com/issue/199804/the.suqs.of.asir.htm
Ross, H.C. The fabric of tradition. Retrieved 24 April 2010 from http://www.saudiaramcoworld.com/issue/198705/the.fabric.of.tradition.htm
Arabia. Journal of King Saud University 13, Architecture & Planning: 51-88.
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