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Ahmed Mater: “Art is a Force of Change”


Ahmed Mater is an emblematic figure of a new generation of Saudi contemporary artists. He is in Paris this week as commissioner of the “Incense Route” exhibition, and as Director of the MiSK Art Institute which organized the exhibition.

At 38, he spends as much time working on his art, as he does at the hospital as a practicing doctor. This double life is palpable when experiencing his artwork, which ponders faith and science, exploring both their relationship and their contradictions. He co-founded Edge of Arabia, a collective of artists promoting Arab contemporary art, with fellow Saudi Abdulnasser Gharem and Englishman Stephen Stapleton. Whether he expresses himself through the medium of photography, video or sculpture, he is considered today one of the main pillars of contemporary art in Saudi Arabia, where he lives.

Why have you chosen Paris?
Ahmed Mater : It’s not why we decide to come to Paris, it’s also why we decide to go out, to go through all of the geographical borders. The idea is to create a new idea of collaboration and cultural sharing. For us, we decide that art can travel, can move, can share, can collaborate.

How are art and society related to each other?
Ahmed Mater : Art will not be isolated from society. First, if I can say, art is a basic human need, this is something very important. Art in society is a very important element, art can do the change. The power of imagination is really the power of change.

Tell us about the Saudi contemporary art scene.
Ahmed Mater : The energy is now in Saudi Arabia, there is a big change happening in the country, there is a lot of artists and their art is really brave, I will call them that, a brave movement of artists. Today we are here in the UNESCO with thirty artists, from MiSK Art institute, which is empowered by MiSK foundation, MiSK Foundation is a non profit organization that support young artists, culture and education, so you know it’s like a movement.

Tell us about an artist that’s exposing today.
Ahmed Mater : I will pick Nojoud Al Soudairi. She works with the textiles of old tents which is called Al Sadu.
She proposes a beautiful architectural proposal that cities can move, or moving cities.
And with her motif and understanding of architecture and art she comes with a beautiful artwork.