Amazon partners with Saudi artists for Eid gift cards
VENICE: A large, 40-meter-long form that seems to twist gently like a living being occupies the entire pavilion of Saudi Arabia. The organically shaped structure is covered in black painted palm fronds and moves, ever so slightly, powered by pneumatics.
Entitled “The Teaching Tree” and by Muhannad Shono, the artist selected to represent the Kingdom in Venice this year, the work is, in his words, “the embodiment of a living imagination, the resistance and resilience of ‘creative spirit. It encompasses a journey, not just of myself, but of the resilience and irrepressible creative scene now emerging in Saudi Arabia.
As the country continues to forge its voice on the international art scene, Shono has become a strong advocate for a new generation of Saudi artists.
Upon viewing Shono’s work, the viewer becomes aware of rays of outside light that cast shadows on the ground, playing a role in the aesthetics and performance of the artist’s work.
Muhannad Shono is the artist selected to represent the Kingdom in Venice this year. (Provided)
“I wanted the work to be connected to the outside light; I wanted the work to change as the natural light changed, inspiring people to experience it. The lighting became very crucial in the end and the shadows created became very important in how they wanted to manifest,” Shono told Arab News.
Muhannad Shono, “The Educational Tree”, 2022. (Supplied)
Curated by Abu Dhabi Cultural Foundation Director Reem Fadda and Associate Curator Rotana Shaker, Shono’s enigmatic form explores ideas of resilience, regeneration, nature, creation and mythology in the natural world and in the human imagination. The work was assembled entirely by hand in Riyadh by a team of Saudi and international artists and mounted in Venice.
Fadda said, “There was a great community alongside Muhannad of artists, supporters and creators and the curation was split between me and Rotana. Photographers, designers and creatives of all kinds came together and supported him in creating and manifesting the work.
Reem Fadda is the director of the Abu Dhabi Cultural Foundation. (Provided)
The work is grounded in the concepts on which Shono has long based his art, namely the practice of questioning basic truths, ontologies and ideas about human life. Of note is the artist’s investigation of the drawn line – the origin of “The Teaching Tree” and the basis of all aesthetic forms – an act of creative agency itself.
“Here we find this massive installation of a line that becomes an incarnate thing, a living thing, throbbing, breathing and coming to life as a force of creative resistance and absolute imagination.
Rotana Shaker is the assistant curator. (Provided)
“It’s not an industrial thing. It’s a structure and there are tires that are inside. The palm leaves have been hand dried, processed and died and they are all palm leaves lost from the fillings which were then inserted by hand each,” added Fadda.
The stories of Al-Khidr, the legendary Islamic figure endowed with immortal life who is described in the Quran as a virtuous servant of God possessing great wisdom or mystical knowledge, had a profound influence on personal and creative life of Shono.
According to several myths, wherever Al-Khidr sat, a garden grew – symbolizing, like Shono’s work at the Biennale, healing, regeneration and rebirth.
Muhannad Shono, “The Teaching Tree”, 2022, Sculptural installation with palm leaves, pigment, tire and metallic structure, variable overall dimensions. (Provided)
“L’Arbre Pédagogique” therefore also reflects on the idea of hope for rebirth, particularly in the face of the current warning signs of past and future ecological and human struggles.
Shono said, “The work is the embodiment of living imagination. It is an act of creative resistance. Despite attempts to restrict the human imagination, and in fact, through these restrictions, more fertile ground is created for stronger expression.
The 59th Venice Biennale runs until November 27.