Greenbox dictionary of Saudi Arabian artists

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Faisal Samra moves in front of a camera recording in black and white. We do not recognize him and only see a man's upper body from behind with a white sheet pulled over it. His face is and will remain hidden througout the performance. He nevertheless turns to face his viewers and picks up the loose ends of the sheet and starts winding them around his head. This goes on for a while with both or changing hands. When the sheet is all wrapped around the head and shoulders, he doesn't stop but continues only to wrap things differently and more firmly, sometimes passing stages that look like he has a bird's beak or is a severly wounded hospital patient. After a while he simply walks away with the sheet still in place. Such is the video installation Samra presents on his website as Distorted Reality (improvisation).

Samra believes he is arming people against the beautified 'made-up images' which are produced by ad-men and news editors to flatter and deceive us into making the wrong choices. He thinks these image producers wage a ruthless war on us and on many levels, but he has said in an interview that it was the role of the media in justifying the actual 'War on Terror' that made up his mind to start the body of work that is Distorted Reality. He uses digital photography, computer graphics and video to record these improvised and mostly very similar performances. They are also presented in a photographic format as a triptych. The cloth or cloths may be more colourful and he may add a number of props, but they all tell of a struggle with images we hold close to our heads. A skinned lamb appears in one of them. He has been quoted as saying that this was a memory from watching a lamb being slaughtered with Eid Al-Adha when he was only four years old and starting to draw. Samra's own distorted realities are not about beautifying the worse but perhaps a better which is to question our resistance against images.    

Faisal Samra (1956) was born and lives in Bahrain. He has the Saudi Arabian nationality and has worked in Saudi Arabia for a number of years after graduating with honours from the Ecole National Superieure des Beaux Arts in Paris in 1980. He has been a fine arts and graphics consultant with the Institut du Monde Arabe. He has explored Islamic design in Marocco and lived and worked in Lebanon and Jordan. He ventured upon his DistortedRealities after having been artist in residence (2005) at the Cité International des Arts in Paris. Earlier work of Samra involved among other things canvas 'released' from the frame and wrapped around wire mesh. This older work is included in the Al-Mansouria foundation collection. Samra is the Saudi Arabian artist best known in the international circuit. He has in 2008 shown his work in the Edge of Arabia exhibition in London and on the Singapore Biennale.


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From top to bottom: Distorted Reality Roses 1 (3 images), Distorted Reality Parrot at Edge of Arabia (2008),  Head No. 1 (1999) .