RIYADH: The Jax district in Diriyah has opened its doors to the Saudi public in an immersive art and virtual reality experience under the theme “a window to your senses”.
Jax Arts Festival encourages audiences to indulge the five senses through a showcase of works by artists from around the world. The area is home to a collection of artist studios and frequent public engagement events.
At its first arts festival, the experience inspires Saudis and tourists alike to “ignite curiosity”, allowing visitors to touch, create or become part of the artwork itself.
As you walk through the front doors of the Jax Arts Festival, you are engulfed in a fog that slowly unveils the first pieces. Emirati artist Alissar Mzayyek’s Clear Vision – Beginning of the Journey is the first work visitors will see.
“I am proud to see our work presented in such beautiful festivals and proud to see that Saudi Arabia is opening up and embracing art in such an innovative way,” Mzayyek told Arab News.
Featuring a collection of hanging rocks bearing plants native to Saudi Arabia, the coin symbolizes the Kingdom’s upward vision.
In the adjacent lobby, a flurry of people surround the artworks and performances at hand: an interactive art painting where visitors can create a painting using the pendulum technique, a colossal black LED cube that reacts with every move, a live music experience and more. .
In a way, the festival aims to highlight an artistic scene accessible to the public. Ultimately, the festival creates a space where art is a conduit for entertainment, stripping away the layers of elitism that can make art intimidating to audiences.
“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is currently experiencing a golden period, thanks to the clear direction of the cultural and artistic entities of the Kingdom, led by the Ministry of Culture… raising the level of quality of life, supporting and enabling the artistic and artistic cultural scene within the Kingdom’s Vision 2030,” featuring artist Abdelrahman Elshahed, told Arab News.
His piece was inspired by the words of Culture Minister Prince Badr bin Farhan, who said, “The history of Arabic calligraphy is a history of civilization, heritage, culture and life.
Interdisciplinary artist Elham Dawsari told Arab News, “I expect Jax festival and similar festivals to open more doors for people to accept art and not feel intimidated going to a gallery. . He breaks down the barriers people have about art and what art is in a way that speaks to them more.
Dawsari situates her work within the context of Saudi women and the limits of urban growth. As the Kingdom looks to the future, some fear its past will be forgotten. Dawsari’s four sculpted pieces depicting women doing everyday activities pay homage to often forgotten members of the Saudi public who sacrificed their dreams and ambitions to raise an unprecedented generation.
“They are the seed of this beautiful change,” she told Arab News. “They felt ignored for a very long time, and now it’s happening again. While we appreciate all of their efforts, we don’t really go out of their way to show it to them publicly.
French artist Julien Gardair takes an abstract approach to visualizing Saudi culture, sculpting various representations of the Saudi people and heritage onto medium-density fiberboard. The designs cut into the wooden planks are all carved in a single line, creating positive and negative contrast, then placed separately and used to construct its pillars.
“You make me see my own culture and my country in a different light,” one woman told Gardair.
He pulled his footage – which resonated with many local festival-goers – from a past visit to the Kingdom before the COVID-19 pandemic.
“One of them was moved to tears. Another told me how beautiful it was to be represented in this way by a foreigner. It made me realize that people might have suffered from the image that was spread about them outside the country,” he told Arab News.
Guatemalan artist Maria Ines Henry (Milah) sits in her color block chair watching reactions to her artwork, Colors of Life.
“A grandma, she starts crying, because she felt so excited…you can feel the power,” she told Arab News. “I get goosebumps when I see people interacting with my art…you have that idea inside and then you put it into the material world.”
Another piece by Henry, “Gift to Saudi”, is an abstract shape recreating the Jax logo. It is the product of seven years of work and research into color psychology and how individuals connect to it.
She places the tones together in an explosion of color on eight distinct pillars. The public can interact with the work by sitting on an additional chair to take engulfed photos in the different hues.
The local artwork exhibited at the festival focuses on the way of life within the Kingdom. Saudi artist Um Kalthoum Al-Alawi’s work is inspired by the exteriors of Jeddah’s historic buildings, Mashrabiyat, where historically the city’s women spent most of their time. Although it may seem complex from a distance, the work is based on geometric shapes formed by three main strokes: straight, oblique and curved lines.
The repeating shapes are constructed to create cascading imagery, all meant to signify the importance of sociality, community and family in the region.
“What makes things complicated is their meeting and intertwining,” Al-Alawi told Arab News.
“All geometric shapes result from a circle, and a circle results from a point. The whole universe results from a point, and from nothing comes everything.
With long lines of visitors waiting to enter, the XR Experience immerses participants in historic sites across Saudi Arabia, including AlUla and the historic city of Jeddah.
Another attraction, a “Renaissance 3D” experience, was curated to adapt to Saudi culture through augmented and virtual reality technologies.
Jax Arts Festival is free and open to the public in Riyadh until July 24.