Your Friends and Neighbors|Jowhara Al Saud

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It’s rare that I go to exhibitions here and really connect, or come out inspired. But last night I went to Jowhara Al Saud‘s show at the Sultan Gallery and immediately warmed up to her prints. Now, I’m not one to deface (or re-face in this instance) others’ works. I’m just trying to expand on a point that Jowhara was making in her photographs: that there are more to people’s expressions than what we see in the face. That even if you erase the eyes, nose and mouth, we have our physical gestures that give us away, whether we know it or not. But what happens when we put these features back in?

Jowhara is Saudi Arabian. I have been to Saudi (just once, only because that is where Mecca happens to be situated) and seen many products, ads and billboards with people’s features air-brushed out. My immediate reaction was to cringe, because they seemed very scary, these faceless bodies. But then I thought it was kind of funny. And then I became a little upset, because my work revolves around painting and drawing people’s faces. And I live so close to Saudi Arabia. OK I’ve gone off track…my point is, I can understand why you would want to eschew facial features completely, lest you risk being censored, flogged or stoned (in the Islamic and not the other way). So to me, that deletion added another dimension to her work. That she has erased the three main features, but other elements deemed unholy remained: the cigarette smoking, the hair uncovered, the western clothing.

Jowhara explained that facial features aren’t always necessary to determine what the person is feeling or thinking. Is it possible to show emotions without the face? Is it possible to misinterpret these emotions? I told Jowhara that her pieces are quite Gestaltian and that I’ve already filled out everyone’s faces. When I asked her if any of these women were her, she pointed them out. In my mind, the faces I imagined were so different than Jowhara’s face. Jowhara nodded and said, see? We have misconceptions, we’ve been conditioned to see things that aren’t there. So I decided to do a little experiment using her invitations. Cross the bridge to see.


2 Comments on “Your Friends and Neighbors|Jowhara Al Saud”

  1. Well observed additions to some already fantastic work. Saw Jowhara’s exhibition (I was at The Sultan Gallery in disguise – as always, oh gosh, I just realised how appropriate is was that I went to her show ‘anonymously’) and have rarely seen the gallery put to better use! It’s on until the 4th – so I’ll go back again before it closes!

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