Top Destinations: Festive Week in JAW – Safwan Dahoul’s Almost A Dream – Arab Unbound in London

February’s Top Destinations are announced earlier than usual, frankly there’s a lot to catch up during the shortest month of the year! Jeddah (KSA) the city grabbing worldwide attention for its booming art scene, astounding talents who are forming & setting up Contemporary Art in GCC and February is the month to unveil all creations with 2nd edition of successful Jeddah Art Week (JAW), a cultural fesita for one week every artsy hub in the city is participating in! 

From early February to end of it, young Kuwaiti artist Tareq Sayed Rajab deMontfort reveals Arab Decadent Romanticism in London, taking viewers through a journey of (The Grace of Arab Men), (The Power of Arab Women) and (The Islamic Avant-Garde). An attempt to cascade a transparent prospect of women and men in Islam, a contradictory and solid visual of reality. 

Writing this paragraph aches my heart because it will the first time since Al Mahha Art was founded I won’t attend opening of my favorite artist Safwan Dahoul! The prominent Syrian artist is having a solo exhibition (Almost A Dream) in Ayyam Gallery Dubai (DIFC) following magnificent success in his London show last May. Maintaining his monochromatic, minimalistic style yet depicting a more complicated  and scrambled dreams, or the thin line between dreams and reality. I won’t be able to be there at opening but definitely visiting the show throughout this month!

Now enjoy your multi-options for February!


Destination One: Jeddah Art Week

Flight Details:  February 1st – 6th, 2014

Rashed Alshashai  The First Mistake 2013. 196 cm in diameter. Light box. Courtesy: Ayyam Gallery
Rashed Alshashai “The First Mistake” 2013. 196 cm in diameter. Light box. Courtesy: Ayyam Gallery

Now in its second year, Jeddah Art Week (JAW), which was founded by contemporary art specialist Lina Lazaar, brings together the best of the contemporary arts from Saudi Arabia and beyond for a week of vibrant creativity and unparalleled variety.

Twelve different and dynamic exhibitions will open through the week, exploring the depth of modern and contemporary visual arts emerging from Saudi Arabia and its neighbours.  During this exciting week of events, JAW will give its audiences access to all forms of visual art, from painting and sculpture, to film, photography, print and multi-media. Local Jeddah are galleries are participating in JAW and will have shows opening throughout the week. This year, fashion and design are also included in JAW program.

 Susie of Arabia / Susie Johnson Khalil.
Susie of Arabia / Susie Johnson Khalil. Courtesy: Jeddah Art Week
  • French-Tunisian street artist eLSeed performs “calligraffiti” — combining graffiti with traditional Arabic calligraphy to paint a mural in Jeddah’s Old Town, in collaboration with five local Saudi street artists.
  • Kakaibang Jeddah! — an exhibition by 15 Jeddah-based Filipino photographers, the first of its kind in the Gulf.
  • The unveiling of a newly restored outdoor sculpture park along Jeddah’s Corniche, with over 24 works by artists such as Henry Moore, Alexander Calder and Juan Miro.
  • EOA Projects’ border-crossing exhibition of over 100 works on paper, including works by Banksy, Walid Raad, Peter Blake Anish Kapoor and Ahmed Mater.
  • Wasma Mansour’s ongoing photographic study of single Saudi women living in London — an interrogation of the stereotypical representation of women from her native country.
  • Tunisia’s leading contemporary art gallery, Galerie El Marsa, presenting two of North Africa’s foremost calligraphy masters of the 20th Century
  • A solo show by Maha Mulluh presented by Selma Feriani Gallery and an exhibition featuring works by Abdulnasser Gharem, Maha Malluh, Shaweesh, Rashad Al Shaisi and Huda Beydoun at Ayyam Gallery.
  • Sotheby’s Exhibition Highlights from its upcoming contemporary art auction in Doha, including works by Ali Bandisadr, Jannane Al Ani, Mounir Fatmi, Damian Hirst, Hayv Kahraman, and Khalil Rabah.
  • An exhibition of 22 Saudi artists, curated by Arabian Wings, a grassroots organisation dedicated to supporting the visual arts of the Arab World.
  • one-day symposium at one of Jeddah’s leading universities, Dar Al Hekma. The conference, ‘Global Contemporary Art and Its Networks’, encompasses a series of lectures and panel discussions considering the development of contemporary art in its historical and global context. Participants include Saudi artists Abdulnasser Gharem, Ahmed Mater, Maha Malluh and Shaweesh, as well as international academics and celebrated art world specialists. (source)

Destination Two: Safwan Dahoul in Dubai

Flight Details: February 5th – March , 2014.

Safwan Dahoul "Dream 67" 2013. Acrylic on canvas. 200 x 180 cm. Courtesy: Ayyam Gallery
Safwan Dahoul “Dream 67” 2013. Acrylic on canvas. 200 x 180 cm. Courtesy: Ayyam Gallery

Ayyam Gallery Dubai (DIFC) is delighted to announce Almost a Dream, an exhibition of new work by acclaimed Syrian painter Safwan Dahoul.  Firmly established as one of the most prominent Arab artists working today, Dahoul will exhibit paintings created within the last year, since his hugely successful 2013 debut UK exhibition, Repetitive Dreams.

While incorporating Dahoul’s signature monochromatic, minimalistic style, the paintings in Almost a Dream import a new, more direct engagement with reality on the ground as they relate to recent catastrophic events in the artist’s native country of Syria.

Having been invested in hulum, the dream, for the past 25 years, Dahoul has begun to distance himself from the realm of the dream and examine whether it is actually dreams which inspire his paintings or something else entirely. This in-between realm of dreaming and not dreaming is evident in several of his bold works. The first of these grey and white paintings shows a wide-eyed angel figure looking down towards a group of children lying motionless, a reference to the innocent children who died last year as a result of chemical warfare in Syria. With eyes open widely, Dahoul’s angel continues to witness the ongoing atrocities in his homeland.

The angel protagonist is often employed by the artist as a symbolic embodiment of Syria. One work sets the angel’s visage in profile against a black background, her winged eye vacuous and dark. The angel who usually looks down at the people of her country is here physically pointed downwards and subjected to the gaze of the viewers, like Syria to the external world.

A large, light greyscale canvas centres Dahoul’s female face with an effect of crinkling visible across the surface. This crumpling effect is a dissolving of sorts, which mirrors the fractionating state of Syria. Dahoul states that what is happening in Syria is not ‘normal’, so in the face of this terror, destruction and grief, he presents the face of his signature narrator in an suitably abnormal fashion, creased and with closed eyes suggestive of resignation and to the events unfolding around her. (source)

Final Destination: The Arab Unbound in London 

Flight Details: February 21, 2014 – 5th March 2014

Tareq Sayed Rajjab "Diwan Al-Sayyid Rajab, 2013" from The Grace of Men series
Tareq Sayed Rajjab “Diwan Al-Sayyid Rajab, 2013” from The Grace of Men series

The Private View Diwan of The Arab Unbound; debut exhibition of Kuwaiti artistTareq Sayed Rajab de Montfort introducing the Islamic Avant-Garde and Arab Decadent Romanticism at Gallery 8 in London through 3 verses of work; hosannas to The Arab:

Room 1: The Grace of Arab Men

Room 2: The Power of Arab Women

Room 3: The Islamic Avant-Garde

The pursuit of beauty is a utilitarian exaltation of the human experience. The philosophy of beauty, cross culturally & ideologically, possesses the most ethical, moral and attainable ideas (if looked at in regards to higher and lower forms of beauty derived from Plato’s hierarchy of the beautiful). Tareq Sayed Rajab deMontfort explains:


I follow 19th Century Decadence translated into Arab Islamic current necessities; its politics challenged norms and battled in decorated guerilla warfare against dominant culture; this resonates with the dilemma of current Arab – Islamic conservatism, Western disregard of beauty and misconceptions of the Islamic from both parties.

Let us become flâneur Lotus Eaters, I posses an adroit agility of limbs. This is only a humble little debut, not even a taste of what I have to offer. I am esculent to listen to; an epicure would shed blood to indulge in my oeuvre. I am the lost chapter of the perfumed garden…..I am the night after 1001. Abu Nawas declared monogamy in vain hope of an evanescent night with me.”

The Cults of Beauty (Western 19th Century art movements that worshipped beauty in varying paradigms such as The Decadents, The Aesthetes & The Pre Raphaelites) possess a disarmingly potent language with a consummate ability to transliterate into dialects that reveal parallels in the thought, pleasure and beauty of The Islamic Golden Era mystics, poets, philosophers and lovers; an example of the affinity between East and West

I live in wanting awe of the Golden Era of Islam, whose scholars rediscovered lost wisdom of the classical period and translated texts that would seep back into Europe resulting in the rapture of the European Renaissance, WE gave modernity to the West.

I wish for the restoration of the pre Islamic Arab tradition of Hilm; an ancient traditional core value of Arab identity; a composure of respect, tolerance, sensitivity, serenity and agile decorum. Hilm was adopted by Islam in defiance of The Jahiliya (are we in a Contemporary Jahiliya?), it was exalted into a name of God: Al-Haleem.

Artist Tareq Sayed Rajab deMontfort


About Tareq Sayed Rajab deMontfort 

Born in 1988 the young artist’s knowledge and relationship with the gulf and especially Kuwait evolved from his grandfather Tareq Sayed Rajab who founded New English School (NES) and The Tareq Rajab Museum. His childhood and teenage years were spent with the artefacts in the museum and reading the books on the library which formed the foundations of what informs the work he creates today.

His work is stimulated from aesthetics, stories and ideas from the past but embraced with a zeitgeist, seeking a contemporary narrative, representing the aspiration of my work, its raison d’être, to be Arab, in full confident promenade but seeking to write a specifically Arab discourse of art, rather than adhere to Western trends in thought and aesthetics. To create an Arab contemporary, an Arab identity that is cosmopolitan in its own right, in a development of its own traditions and history and stories (elements that form identity), looking ahead but still embracing the past; a statement that is a paramount issue for Arabs today and also an act that keeps me faithful to a movement of art that influences my work, 19th century Romanticism and the Pre-Raphaelites who believed in looking backwards in order to move forwards.

All contexts of his work posses a duality of Arab/Islamic and Western thought. Seeking a passionate embrace and a revival of the great fascination between the two, the work does this by integrating and merging aesthetic ornamentation and stylisation as well as the development of a Philosophy of Beauty (in the original sense of the word with its association with Ethics, Morality and Goodness) by embroidering together Western philosophy and the legacy of the Islamic Golden Ages of intellect and learning. Sayyed Rajab considers it a paramount duty to young creatives from the Gulf to promote themselves to the best, as the religion of our culture originally expected of us, to act with holm, and seeking knowledge. This passion and pursuit of beauty to respect our illustrious history of art and intellect and to challenge the negative and dark misconception of Arab identity today; always in an embrace of tradition, past and the contemporary.

Enjoy your flights!


One Comment Add yours

  1. sueraya shaheen says:

    Will u be writing about FOTOFEST ??? +971 (0)55 2234227 @sueraya


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