Greenbox dictionary of Saudi Arabian artists

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Ahmed Mater Al-Ziad Aseeri (1979) may best be described as an illuminator of both form and ideas and a man of energy and few habits. He is from the traditional village of Rujal Al-Ma’a in the mountainous and green area of Aseer and was raised in its capital Abha, where he still combines his career as an artist with that of a medical doctor at the local hospital.

It is from this knowledge of both loss and enlightenment that Mater appears to have the ability to move from expressing sadness and anger to sharing his insights with a sense of humour and life giving lightness. In the work which has brought him fame in both Europe and Saudi Arabia, when it was acquired by The British Museum, he combined explicit notes from his medical education with images of the Kaaba and a mosque. In a tradition of making collages these notes were loosely distributed on and around a visually attractive blue and black X-Ray. While advertising science in this work Mater does not overestimate its meaning and serves his audience with the real question: is it just DNA that makes us human or is something more required? Mater is one of those artists who is not there for viewers alone but actually needs a listening audience. ‘Has eyes, so can see,’ is what he may write on his collectors' foreheads.


Celebrating the pleasure of your eyes, but punching you on your nose with milk cartons and cheese boxes of a yellow variety of La vache qui rit, is what Mater ambitiously did in the 2007 Sharjah Biennial. Mater does his homework and has given much thought to the yellow cow that is mentioned in the Quran as a pleasure to see. Yellow Cow Products was a non commercial shop apparently critical of ‘Western’ consumerism. Not afraid of some bravura, Mater, as if he was mocking a TV commercial, went off into the desert with a bucket of yellow paint and a sponge to paint a real cow yellow in a country where painting yellow cows real is considered not done.

Extreme and disturbing pain is there in a work that deals with suicide and oil that went on show as a trilogy or triptych on the 11th Cairo Biennial. Again it is said to deal with the effects of consumerism on the traditions of his country and perhaps of his region in particular.

A return to using science to express something for which there is no scientific solution is his work Magnatic. Using the dual qualities of magnetism to both attract and repulse and playing on visual parallels with pilgrims circling the Kaaba, Mater seems to comment on relations of Islam with the world or on differences within the nation of Islam. Visually the work looks as if inspired by work of Lulwah Al-Homoud with whom Mater co-curated the Edge of Arabia exhibition in London in 2008.

No illumination without darkness. They need each other. Not only does Mater refer in his works to present and future, he also includes images of a more magical past in his Talisman X-Rays. Texts appear that may be associated with magical bowls that were once in use in many parts of the Eastern world. 

Artspace in Dubai has announced a solo exhibition of Mater which will probably coincide with Art Dubai 2009. (2009).


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From top to bottom: Talisman X-ray 3, illumination V & VI, Magnatic, Evolution of Man, Yellow Cow Products. © Artist.