Misk Art Institute’s spring display, titled “Brand New Ancients,” presents 17 artists’ existing works derived from oral and material traditions, showing how history can revive itself in innovative ways.
Curated by Wassan Al-Khudhairi and Cecilia Ruggeri, the exhibition was born out of Kae Tempest’s poem of the same title, both telling a story of the past’s impact on future potential.
Al-Khudhairi : “Tradition is such a loaded word, and it has so much meaning to so many people in a lot of really strong ways. “In our contemporary culture today, not just artists, but a lot of people, look at stories, ideas, techniques, traditions that come from the past as ways to tackle our current culture, and even to envision the future.”
Paralleling the theme, the exhibition has been staged using only existing works.
“You can take the work that’s been made two, five, eight years ago, and put it in another context and breathe a different life into it and allow it to have another life through its relationship to the theme and the other works around it,” Al-Khudhairi said.
Kuwait-born visual artist Hamra Abbas has used lapis lazuli stones from Afghanistan to create a mosaic of K2, the second-highest mountain in the world, and titled it “Mountain 1.”
The structure is described as a relic of Pakistani history, embodying perfection, paradise, and truth. The artist used the classical 17th-century Florian marquetry technique of pietra dura, which later became prominent in her local region and used in the Indo-Islamic Mughal architecture style.
Blocks of stone were painstakingly cut into fragments and then individually polished, shaped, and pieced together to form the 320-kilogram artwork as a symbol for cultural exchange and diversity, gluing together notions and materials from around the world.
Pakistani artist Wardha Shabbir’s miniature painting, “In Search of Light,” uses the atmosphere of the city of Lahore, nuanced by bright yellow and orange colors, to portray symbols of loss, despair, hope, and survival inspired by her experience as a woman from Pakistan.
It is an emblem of personal traditions as well as ones handed down through generations, commemorated by the drawings of flora native to the region and mapped across archival paper.
Using the principle that a poem is not a poem unless it has seven lines, Saudi artist Maha Malluh’s presentation, “Riyadh Poem,” is the final piece in her “Food for Thought” series. The artwork is a seven-piece hanging installation made of 156 aluminium pot covers, reflecting traditional motifs within Islamic culture, such as the seven rounds in Hajj around the Kaaba, the seven heavens, and the seven days of the week.
The artists’ works will remain on display at the Prince Faisal bin Fahd Fine Arts Hall in Riyadh until July 15.