Follow Misk on:

Share this page:

Celebrated land artist Zahrah Al-Ghamdi has been selected to exhibit After Illusion, a site-specific installation using natural materials inspired by the artist’s sense of home, at the National Pavilion of Saudi Arabia, Venice Biennale, 58th International Art Exhibition. After Illusion is heavily informed by the overall Biennale theme ‘May you live in interesting times’. ‘Interesting’ is a purposefully vague word, loaded with alternative meanings. In After Illusion Al-Ghamdi meditates on the value of uncertainty. Exploring the dichotomy between something new, but familiar, illusion and truth. Inviting us to free ourselves from the obligations that come from taking a definitive stance, opening new doors to self-awareness and transformation.


As Eiman Elgibreen, curator of the exhibition, says:

“Saudis have long been living in interesting times. Their complicated sociocultural history has forced them, and others, to be seen as interesting. There is a sense of lost cultural and historical agency due to the hegemony of global discourse. Their significance has been encapsulated within two narrow historical moments: the emergence of Islam and the discovery of oil, leaving them confused on how to perceive their history outside of those moments, particularly with the absence of visual evidence.”

The title After Illusion refers to a line from an ancient Arabic poem written by Zuhayr bin Abī Sūlmā (b.520- d.609) in which the poet describes the struggle to recognise his home after being away for 20 years.Only illusion helps the eighty-year-old recognise it – a state of mind we think obscures the truth, but actually paves the way to it.

About the artwork

Al-Ghamdi wants After Illusion to feel like stepping into an imaginary world. The 50,000 handmade leather spheres come to life around you, glowing, vibrating and moving like creatures, activated by the visitor’s presence. Inviting them to recognise, reconnect, and revisit a feeling of exploring something new but familiar.

From the materiality of the leathers, sand and rocks that form the installation and creatures, to the artist and curator’s own upbringings, After Illusion draws on important elements of Saudi culture and conjure a sense of the artist’s home. The artwork goes beyond the most common, and sometimes surface-level understandings of Saudi Arabia. It draws on Saudi oral history and poetry for a modern audience, reflecting on the country’s rich history and nuanced identity.

Curator Eiman Elgibreen says:

“To construct a conceivable space of turning fear into curiosity, to explore the unknown instead of fighting it, artist Zahrah Al-Ghamdi is the obvious choice. A strongly emerging contemporary artist, her unique experiment with focus on materiality challenges the dominant contemporary scene of Saudi art today.

The trajectory of her work has displayed her abilities to transform into new objects, elements she perceives as an embodiment of her old birthplace that have been mostly now turned into ruins. She would then use them to generate an equally exquisite and enigmatic space where one could relive and reimagine the home she knew, a space that is created anew in every iteration.”


About the team

The artistic and curatorial team behind After Illusion is made up of three remarkable women: the renowned land artist Zahrah Al-Ghamdi, project advisor Nada Shabout and curator Eiman Elgibreen.

Project Advisor Nada Shabout
Nada Shabout

project advisor of After Illusion. Vastly respected in her field, she brings her unique viewpoint and academic expertise to the exhibit, drawing on her knowledge of modern and contemporary Arab art. She is professor of Art History and Coordinator of the Contemporary Arab and Muslim Studios initiative (CAMCSI) at the University of North Texas.

Curator  Eiman Elgibreen
Eiman Elgibreen

is the curator of After Illusion. She brings her eye for the ambiguous and unexpected to the exhibit, steeped in her understanding of cultural conflicts and promoting tolerance towards cultural differences. She holds a PHD in Modern and Contemporary Saudi Art History from the University of Sussex, specialising in female art practices.

Artist Zahrah Al Ghamdi
Zahrah Al-Ghamdi

celebrated land artist, known for her site-specific installations and use of natural materials. Living and working in Jedda, her work focuses on the memory of traditional architecture from south western Saudi Arabia. Al-Ghamdi was chosen to represent Saudi Arabia at this year’s Biennale because of her deep and nuanced understanding of Saudi culture, the way she conveys a subtle message and is always true to her roots. In After Illusion, her installation in the Saudi Pavilion, she seeks to transport the visitor to imaginary worlds, bridging the familiar and the new, illusion and truth.

Planning your visit

caret-down icon close icon download icon facebook hamburger icon kufic-background-shape icon kufic-edge icon kufic-flush icon logo-ar icon mail icon search icon share icon twitter