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Art English Blogs التدوينات العربية سيرة لوحات

Stories by Helen

13 نوفمبر، 2016
By Helen Zughaib

By Helen Zughaib

Our life is a series of endless stories, which overlap and intersect one way or another,  this intersection is what brings us closer to others.  We share a human experience with someone when we find that this experience permeates deep down inside us and directs our memories to something we’ve come across before .Documenting our experiences  perhaps helps another person to move forward in life and therein we sense the power of stories, which have been a lifeboat for me.

I sincerely believe that behind everything we do there is a story that somehow directs us along the way no matter what is this thing we are doing: painting, a sculpture, an article, the way we choose what to wear in the morning, or the color we choose. I can see stories in numbers and financial reports. The important thing is learning how to tell your story.

I often find myself analyzing paintings and when I’m wandering in the Virtual world, or during my visits to galleries,  I dig deep into my thoughts trying to figure out what was the artist trying to tell this girl before it freezes in the panel ? What secret did this painting tell the artist when it was luring him to be drawn? Where would this person in the painting go if he\she found themselves alive in this world? Imagine how would the scene be if the painting became a short video clip? Is it a result of happiness or sadness? Or is the artist through this painting trying to figure out his feelings? What was he thinking when these details were added? It is a language in itself. Many questions apply to all paintings because I care about the hidden messages more.


Saying Goodbye By Helen Zughaib

Saying Goodbye By Helen Zughaib

And when the artist gives me what I’m looking for on a  golden platter , inevitably it will be a unique experience. Helen Zughaib with her calm and charming voice enveloping nostalgia, helped me to build bridges to her paintings, by not letting me think and analyze. She was telling the stories behind her paintings at the workshop “Art in Diplomacy and finding your own story” she took us through a journey to view her work. I would say that it felt like a trip on a flying carpet, which took us across time, moving between past and present, going to America, Beirut, Palestine and Damascus, sometimes we stood by the river and we bid farewell to those who are leaving and other times we stood humbly before a mosque with Almanarah (minaret) rising from behind.

What really helped build those bridges is the Arabian touch that we sense from her artwork, you can tell that her identity as an Arab-American can appear through a unique style , I felt that what the storyteller was referring to was there in her stories and I’ve always been fond of this since I was a kid. It’s like the stories our grandparents used to tell us on Friday when we gathered for a dinner.

The details merge in her paintings as if it was a piece coming out of wonderland. Simple and deep. The cherry on the top of the cake is her passion for her work, her family stories that she got to document in her artwork.

Nostalgia appears in the higher stages when Helen talked about returning to Lebanon. She was talking and when our eyes crossed many times, I sensed the spectrum of grief. She tried to encapsulate this feeling with a smile and some jokes from time to time.

I have to refer to the artwork which was modeled on tiles from Damascus. They were beautiful tiles with the details that Damascus is famous for and some of them were broken. It is her way to say that war destroyed everything. I felt tears flowing from my eyes for this simple and profound work had made me feel emotional in a way I cannot describe.

I should not forget to thank the Saudi Art Council for organizing a group of art events such as these. It is wonderful that they tried to connect local art and world experiences.


Crossing Thelitani By Helen Zughaib

Crossing Thelitani By Helen Zughaib

الحياة عبارة عن سلسلة من القصص اللانهائية، التي تتداخل وتتقاطع بشكل أو بآخر وهذا التقاطع هو ما يقربنا من البعض حينما نجد فيما يرويه فكرة خطرت لنا وحاصرتنا يوما ما، حينما يلمس شعورا تغلغل في أعماقنا ذات تجربة، ومن هنا نشترك في تجربة إنسانية مع شخص دون آخر، إذا ما حاولنا يوماً ما توثيقها، ربما تلامس شخصاً آخر وتعينه على المضيّ قدما في حياته، وهنا تكمن قوّة القصص، التي طالما كانت قارب نجاة بالنسبة لي، وخلف كل عمل نقدمه لوحة أو تمثال مشهد تمثيلي أو مقال نكتبها، خلف كل عمل نقوم به من إختيار مانرتديه بالصباح حتى طريقة رؤىتنا للعالم،  حتى التقارير المالية، والأرقام، كلها مبتدئها قصة طالما نعرف مانريد قوله وكيف، ستصل حتما بالطريقة التي نرغبها.

غالبا ما أجد نفسي أحلل اللوحات التي أصادفها في تجوالي الافتراضي، أو خلال رحلاتي للمعارض الفنّية، ماذا كانت تقول هذه الفتاة قبل أن تتجمد في لوحة؟، بماذا أسرّت لرسامها حينما كانت ترواده لرسمها؟، وإلى أين ستذهب لو قدر لها أن تخرج لهذا العالم؟ ماذا لو أصبحت هذه اللوحة بشكل مفاجئ مقطع فيديو قصير؟ كيف رسمها الفنان؟ عن أي ألم كان يعبر؟ وهل يمكن أن نرهن لحظة سعيدة في لوحة؟ بماذا كان يفكر حينما أضاف هذه التفاصيل؟، هي لغة بحد ذاتها وحديث من نوع آخر، تساؤلات كثيرة تنطبق على كل اللوحات التي أصادفها، بكل التفاصيل التي يحويها الإيطار. لأنني أهتم بالماوراء أكثر من كل شيء ظاهر.
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‎Innervoices .. Saudi art street

20 يوليو، 2015

       “Street Art” is one of my favorite things to watch and analyse because it acts as a spotlight on the real goings on in the minds of the new generation.

 Usually it catches my eye if I see any paintings or calligraphy on the wall, anywhere, sometimes I feel like this talent shouldn’t  be wasted like that. But the more I think about it, the more I realize that these people will continue doing that no matter what we do; they are part of Art around the world, sometimes it’s just their way of expressing themselves. They do not care about who knows them or not! They are rebels without rules, looking at the art differently than anyone else. That is why we can not ask them to paint according to rules because they are “Artists after their own way”.  So, is the exhibit a good idea for this kind of art?.

          When I heard about “kthrat hawajesi” or “‎innervoices‬” , the Saudi street art exhibit, I felt it was just the perfect thing. I thought, this will be a place where people come to draw and do so without titles or names in order to truly simulate what actually happens in the street. But later I found that it is not anonymous.

         And that makes me wonder if it’s an official thing, will the level of honesty be the same? Sometimes street art has a powerful message, being anonymous just gives people more space to say whatever they want to say. Will it be the same if  everyone knows who the artist is? And can we call it “Street Art” if it is held in the same manner as an ordinary art fair or exhibit? A lot of questions crossed my mind on my way to the exhibit.

          The art work I found there is really good some of the artists had great ideas, and some I felt like they do not know what to say yet. But it’s good to participate in exhibit like that to learn “how to say” and “what to say”.

         The location is just perfect for it to be called “Street Art”. What I found disappointing, however, is that the location will be open for just seven days. I thought it would be open for everyone at any time as a place for street art, to remain close enough to what it is that Street art means.

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I talked to one of the organizers, Ranim Farsi, and  she said “ we want  to bring the art to the street because we noticed that art here is for a certain group of people and not for everyone, that is why we chose a simple name and why we hold it in the Alamariyah* district of Albalad*. We want to be close to the youth to encourage them to come, to take a look and try to understand art and feel it and maybe one day try to express themselves through any kind of art.”

          When I asked her if it’s  always going to be open, she said it’s hard to accomplish, maybe one day we will do it but not now, and added: “We had a goal and I think we achieved it because we saw the reaction of people in participating in and organizing the exhibit.”  

         I had great time talking to the artists there, and listening to what the young artists think about Art in general. I have to say that “Innervoices” is part ofthe “21, 39 Jeddah Art Initiative”, organized by the Saudi Art council

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5 مايو، 2015


“SECTION 11”, Rashed Alshshai’s solo exhibition in Hafiz Gallery, was one of the most memorable exhibits I have ever attended. I’m not talking about the individual artworks as much as I’m talking about the whole concept–every single piece was a story related to another. It used contemporary artwork to talk about the traditions and ideas that changed in our area.  It forced me to go back and research in order to refresh my memory about the history of societal change in Saudi Arabia.

For example how religious misinterpretation and the way people think take over everything. The whole way of  life changed as a result of it, starting with people’s behavior.  One of the things I was curious about: how to take over peoples’ minds and control them by using religion and the current situations of people. For example, the young men who felt the world had let them down. They lowered their expectations of life and their minds became vulnerable to anything. The idea of “winning” something drove them to choose death instead of working hard to reach their goal.

I remembered a book I read previously that was written by Dr AbdulAziz Al Khider. The book analyzes the changes that happened in the way people think here.   It was one of the best books I have ever read about the societal changes in Saudi Arabia-maybe I will talk about it in another post one day. The exhibit took me back to think about all of this.


The exhibit “Section 11” is like a study and it focuses on education because the artist is a teacher and he tried to make the exhibit like a hypothetical class. The art piece which I spent the most time at was a collection of school notebook pages with drawings of students’ dreams, made when they were still young and innocent. The kids dreamed about achieving something, about helping people, about being doctors, engineers, or scientists. He used a reflection in the mirror to show the changes that happened to them when they grew up and how they changed their definitions of “achievement”. I loved how he tried to use objects from our everyday environment, such as the coffee cup display, to show how traditions can sometimes trap and imprison us.

I went to the exhibit twice because the opening night was crowded. I felt like I wanted to come back in order to spend as much time as possible looking at the artwork. The artist was smart to touch our minds in a way that makes us think, remember, and even imagine. It’s not easy to push people to ask existential questions.

Art is not always about creating beautiful pieces. Sometimes it serves as a message or a reminder. And sometimes it’s something that allows us to encounter ourselves or face our reality. That’s what Rashid did in this exhibit. It was a reminder about facing our past. People are good at looking away from their mistakes and repeating the past. I wonder why the artist chose this subject right now? Is it because of what is happening around us? Is he afraid that history will repeat itself?.

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The second day I went back to meet the artist– Rashid. We talked about many things. I was able to see the mind behind all the work revealed. We had a great discussion. I was alone at the exhibit and took another tour through the work. I saw a lot of things I did not see at the opening.

During our little discussion I asked the artist about the message of the art. I asked him, “What is the artwork, is it asking
questions? Or trying to give answers?” He said, “For me, I try to put the person who comes to see my work in a position where he or she will start to ask questions and to think. As an artist, I do not think our job is to fix anything. Rather we put a spotlight on the problems or what we think they are.”

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