Critics’ Picks

Sheila Hicks, Palm, 1984–85, wool, 11' 9'' x  9' 3''.

Sheila Hicks, Palm, 1984–85, wool, 11' 9'' x 9' 3''.

Riyadh

“Here, Now”

Misk Art Institute
Prince Faisal bin Fahd Arts Hall, King Saud Rd, An Namudhajiyah
October 3, 2021–January 3, 2022

Organized by Sacha Craddock, the exhibition “Here, Now” proceeds from no particular curatorial premise beyond the phenomenological emphasis of the title. While there may be no guiding theme, certain motifs unfold through almost fifty works by five international artists, who have been placed in dialogue with five Saudi artists.

Nearly four decades ago, the artist Sheila Hicks was commissioned to produce more than fifty large-scale works for King Saud University’s art program. One of these, Palm, 1984–85, a wall-size tapestry of drooping colorful fronds, now faces off with Saudi artist Filwa Nazer’s The Other Is Another Body 1, 2019, a pair of black soft sculptures swathed in porous netting. The latter read as receptacles for monstrous beings not yet formed, creating a somewhat ominous atmosphere for Hicks’s dreamy signifier of desert plant life.

At first glance, Sami Ali AlHossein’s surreal Al-Ahsa-inspired landscapes and UK-based Young In Hong’s embroidered flower drawings—each noting the depicted bouquet’s price and location—have little in common. Yet both are visual documents of the instability of our environment, whether urban or natural. Salah Elmur’s beguiling acrylic portraits trap their subjects in ornate but claustrophobic settings, while Vasudevan Akkitham stages otherworldly interplays between interior and exterior in paintings populated by birds, horses, and elephants.

Through the juxtaposition of such eclectic selections, Craddock purports to question the seemingly obvious gap between a work’s interpretation and the artist’s intention. Perhaps this is best exemplified by a line from Hong’s Manifesto for Flower Drawing, 2013: “I have to draw flowers until I do not know why I am drawing flowers.”