Art doesn’t require full contextualization to evoke a genuine response. Abdulmohsen Albinali.
Artist’s Background and Early Influences
Drawing from a multi-disciplinary background, Abdulmohsen Albinali (www.albinali.art), a Saudi-based mixed media artist, creates installations and sculptural pieces. Working with ceramics, metal, taxidermy, and more, he explores textures through sculpting, printmaking, collage, painting, video, and interactive media. Albinali shares his passion for textures, stating, “I appreciate the ability to feel an object with your eyes when you gaze upon it.”
Early Exposure and Artistic Development
Abdulmohsen Albinali, when asked about his background, shared that his early exposure to art came from his mother, a painter. Recalling using watercolours at a young age, he emphasised the foundational impact of creating art in shaping one’s character. While initially pursuing a non art related degree, Albinali’s interest in contemporary art grew after high school. He delved into the art scene, visited museums, and actively developed his practice. At 24, he decided to pursue a BFA in fine arts at the School of Visual Arts in New York. Returning to Saudi Arabia, he engaged in art residencies, preferring to take a break before considering an MA. His diverse experiences included two residencies in Saudi, participating in one of the first in the country, and a scholarship-funded residency at Cite International Des Arts in Paris, where he faced challenges during the onset of COVID. Despite these restrictions, Albinali focused on gardens and created a studio garden with the help of fellow artists.
Master’s Journey and Philosophical Approach
Between 2021 and 2023, Abdulmohsen pursued a Master’s in Fine Arts at the Slade School of Art, University College London (UCL). Reflecting on his journey, he states, “When I was in the UK, it was very important for me to weave connections between local and Saudi stories, remaining conscious of my surroundings. Inclusivity was a key consideration. I think about warmth and playfulness, connecting with it in an unpretentious way, acknowledging that art doesn’t require full contextualization to evoke a genuine response from visitors”.
Balancing chaos and order, Abdulmohsen’s art blurs lines between artificial and organic, merging objects with materials that enhance narrative. Rooted in arts and anthropology research, his aesthetic delves into folklore, history, archaeology, and gardening. Conceptual frameworks drive exploration of the natural world, investigating correlations between collective perceptions of nature and our place within it. Referencing myth, his works incorporate landscapes, ecosystems, and biodiversity, exploring human interaction with nature. Regarding his creative process, Abdulmohsen rationalises ideas but believes the final object stands alone, resistant to explicit explanations. Embracing openness to interpretation, he recognizes the impossibility of controlling the visitor’s experience.
“The Tree of the Future” Project
Discussing the project “The Tree of the Future,” the artist envisioned a world impacted by intense global warming, where Middle Eastern sands turned to glass due to extreme heat. In this scenario, a genetically modified tree adapted to the harsh conditions became a projection on a bed of glass. Reflecting broken fragments on the wall, the tree remained elusive as only its reflections from shattered mirrors were visible. The artwork sparked a narrative where the resilient tree lamented the absence of visitors, designed to survive but surrounded by an empty garden. The artist pondered the significance of a garden without visitors, emphasising the inspiring nature of such settings and questioning its essence in the absence of those to appreciate it.
The artist’s practice revolves around world-building, delving into the profound significance of gardens across cultures. Reflecting on the philosophy behind each culture’s garden, he questions the narrative his own garden conveys. His interest lies in using nature as material for myth, drawing inspiration from ancient times when stories emerged from chaos to create order. Ongoing research focuses on regional folklore, particularly in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Peninsula. Intrigued by the fluidity of oral traditions, he explores the role of a storyteller and contemplates translating these traditions into tangible art. Recognizing the richness of the material, he acknowledges the challenge of preserving attitudes within ever-evolving stories, expressing a commitment to bringing these narratives to life.
Exploring Folklore Through Animation
One such project is “Can You Hear the Djinn in the Trees?”, an experimental stop-motion animation, marking the initial chapter of a broader series by the same name. The debut instalment unfolds in a mythical valley of a bygone era, nestled in the mountains of the Arabian Peninsula, featuring five characters. The series weaves a narrative within a rich tapestry of symbolism, inanimate objects, and intriguing characters and creatures. Drawing inspiration from Bedouin oral storytelling’s poetic nature, it reconstructs plots from Pre-Islamic Arabian folklore. The visual aesthetics are rooted in diverse indigenous, mythological, anthropological, and archaeological references of Arabian cultures.
On digital presence with albinali.art
Albinali reflects on his online presence in the .ART domain zone, emphasising, “It’s just me and art. This basically equals me. .ART is straight to the point”. He adds, “There is a word in Arabic عفوي [afawi], which technically means “spontaneous” but I actually mean it as instinctive, and غريزي [ghareezi], “instinctive”. It was an instinctive thing, it wasn’t a rational one.”