The art scene in the Kingdom has seen its ups and downs in recent years, always seemingly concentrated on old and traditional themes, beautifully portraying different aspects of life throughout different methods and periods in our history, but somehow reserved. With the turn of the 21st Century, things are starting to stir up in the art world, a younger generation of fresh faced artists are born. The traditional ways of art are being transformed into a new way of displaying things, more emotions and feelings are expressed with the use of their brush strokes or pencil sketches in the most creative way it has ever been. With events such as Jeddah Art Week, Edge of Arabia and a collective art exhibition by young Saudi artists at Riyadh’s prestigious L’Art Pur Gallery, young artists are more enthusiastic than ever. One of these enthusiastic young ones is Noorah Kareem, her art is a mix of feelings, moods and intentions, all put into her art work.
This young 25-year-old is very new to the art scene yet has caught the eye of both the young and older generations through her work. Her work can be called eccentric, from quirky cartoon comic-like characters, superheroes to simple doodles and sketches that speak out to her audience loud and clear. Her work wasn’t taken seriously until she was offered a scholarship to Art and Skills Institute in Riyadh, mid way through her studies at King Saud University specializing in Special Education, where she learned everything that had to do with painting and sketching. But her passion was still not found there. Only after she graduated that she combined her learning at the institute and her admiration for the weird, different and interestingly strange.
“I love everything different, it tells of who I am, a young curious girl, who loves cartoons and old school work that is all about drawing, fun and purely innocent in the sense that it tells a story of feeling.” The artist uses a lot of sarcasm and comic illustrations in her pieces, all with clear messages behind them that people from both older and young generations can relate to, even if the message means something to one and the opposite to the other. Noorah says it loud and clear. One of her latest projects was a collection of five paintings of various people all taking the ever so common “selfie” displayed at the L’art Pur Gallery in Riyadh last month. When being critiqued she found that the older generation took it very seriously claiming that “selfie” takers are too much into themselves whereas others saw the irony in them. “I enjoyed hearing their views of my paintings, some were very funny. Selfies are a form of expression to some and I just wanted to show how a painting of a selfie can be funny with the different facial expressions and the amount of concentration it takes to perfect it. It was a funny concept and the result was great,” said Noorah.
The self taught artist likes to challenge herself, mix things up, messing with concepts and flipping them over and find the humor in it. She learned her trait from YouTube videos as well as art and sketching classes that she attended in Chicago during the summer vacations. She experimented with her doodles, sketches of items and people around her and transformed it into a collection. “I like old school, Disney type of sketching, it’s an art form that is long gone due to technology, but to me it’s something I can pour myself into,” says Noorah.
Another collection of work that she had done were of magazine cover shots flipped around. “Sayidaty” became “Rajoli” keeping the essence of the magazine intact but changes introduced for the benefit of male readers, giving it a sarcastic twist in the opposite gender’s perspective. Art is no longer confined to specific concepts nor elaborate methods in order for it to be considered “art.” The concept of what is an art piece has drastically changed over the years, especially in the Kingdom where many are exploring the unknown and uncommon and creating something beautiful.
Art is expression. Noorah’s moods can be seen here and there. Her “Boogie Humans” may seem funny to some, weird and ugly to a few or simply cartoony to others. But looking closely at each painted character, they’re each different with distinct features of distorted expressions all meshed up to portray a large canvas of feelings. Just imagine the faces of monsters hiding under the bed, scary, with lively chaotic mesh of vibrant colors to show the chaotic vibe of her “Boogie Humans” series. The young artist had this to say, “It’s in that chaos that I am able to express the feelings I had at the time. Finding unorganized concepts and organizing them using my hands or brushes bring out the imaginary characters that live in my head. I like them weird, quirky, different and out of the ordinary, that’s what I strive to achieve.”