Saudi artist Fatimah Al Nemer’s works document her journey and country - GulfToday

Saudi artist Fatimah Al Nemer’s works document her journey and country


Shaloh by Fatimah Al Nemer.

Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer

Saudi artist Fatimah Al Nemer has unveiled her latest exhibition titled Dkhoun at Mestaria Gallery, Alserkal Avenue, Dubai (Oct 19 - Nov. 9). It invites the viewer to explore the inspiring journey of a female protagonist portrayed through a blend of modern techniques and traditional symbolic elements rooted in Saudi culture. Al Nemer’s powerful narrative celebrates the strength and resilience of women via her own life voyage, portraying her journey through carefully chosen symbols of Saudi culture. According to her, the pictures narrate the character’s progression from silence and oppression to self-expression.

‘Dkhoun’ literally translates to “the most precious types of incense”. However, it elevates in meaning here to symbolise goodness, purity, sustenance, and provision — essences felt in our blood and bone. For example, when we encounter a scent, we instinctively close our eyes, immersing ourselves in the emotions it stirs. Similarly, naming the gallery collection ‘Dkhoun’, signifies that it captures the sensibility of the works. It embodies a woman’s nobility and sublimity, akin to the most precious incense. In Al Nemer’s compositions, other symbols too converge and accompany her journey. The pomegranate symbolises a woman’s warmth and beauty, while the flower represents life itself. Another artwork uses Al Rababa - a traditional musical stringed instrument which signifies the character’s sadness and her transitional phases in life, while the dove signifies inner peace during her journey. The artist uniquely blends traditional textiles and various contemporary materials into her works, seamlessly connecting the culture of the past with the mores of the present. Her creations highlight the principal character’s beauty, strength and intelligence, and strive to enlighten viewers about the region’s history. Each piece narrates a woman’s story, building a window for viewers to see through. It draws them into living the character’s journey virtually, as she grows from the cocoon of silence into the beautiful butterfly of a self-realised individual.

The exhibition features eight tapestry pieces meticulously crafted, each intricately woven using various silk materials, processed and merged into four layers on canvas. Acrylic colours have been then added, resulting in a symphony of colour and texture that does not fail to mirror the depth and richness of Saudi culture. “Art is a way of life,” says Al Nemer, and of course her inspiration is rooted in personal experience and the struggle for self-expression. She sees her art as a portal for articulation, to evoke emotions and connect beyond individual encounters, striving to convey a message that reaches the depths of all souls.

She has said that her women are “strong, often bold and mysterious, and a representation in particular, of their freedom.” She added that the differences between beauty, cruelty and contradictions of self through picturing herself in her works with the use of contemporary concepts, “is a journey of struggle in itself.” Drawing once was her tool for empowerment, building her confidence and character. Art began as a “childhood sanctuary,” a refuge for unspoken words as she was an extremely shy and timid person. Through art’s comradely embrace, she found her voice and confidence - which led her to the question: “Why not lend this expressive power to others, especially women?”

                                            Saudi artist Fatimah Al Nemer’s artwork titled Ward.

Thus began her journey of personifying diverse characters in art, painting women’s strength and worth and blending reality with imagination to add heft to the work. Her art became an emotional canvas and a proxy for dreams and sentiments. But Al Nemer is not stuck in memory’s straitjacket: she has evolved into intertwining tradition with a contemporary vision that speaks of yet more achievements to come. She is a Saudi artist, born in the heart of Qatif, in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province. She embarked on her art journey two decades ago, beginning by crafting delicate gold and jewellery designs. But her creative spirit soon led her to explore various other forms of art — visual art, paintings and tapestry, each of which had its own allure for her.

She has a special place in her heart for her Saudi heritage, and uses her art to honour her country by empowering its women. In her works, she delicately conceals the eyes, inviting viewers to contemplate what goes on behind the covering. Invariably, they are compelled to engage with the narrative that is painted. Al Nemer’s talent has graced galleries around the world, and has left marks in the UAE, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, and also internationally in India, France and Holland. It is her routine to breathe life into historical and unknown personas through her paintings, drawing their stories onto the canvas. As per her statement, from a shy, quiet girl, she has bloomed into becoming an artist whose works resound with the unrecognised and unrewarded tales of strong women.

The therapeutic qualities of art have been abundantly documented. Art allows one to safely explore emotions, memories and personal narratives. It increases a sense of well-being and develops personal insights by bringing the world of creative expression to daily lives. Art allows the artist — emerging or established — to express experiences that defy verbalisation, to transform and integrate private experiences and serves as a release from psychological bondage (if any). It helps practitioners attain a sense of aliveness and imagine a new future. And the world is the better for it. Mestaria Gallery specialises in works from accomplished regional and global talent, with a specific focus on works of an Arabic, African and Asian origin. 

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