Maha Malluh is a Saudi artist, born in the traditional region of Najd, who explores the challenges of modernity that have come so overwhelmingly to Saudi Arabia. Continuous in her artwork, that started with collages and developed into photograms, is her use of symbolic and real imagery to express her opinion about life in Saudi Arabia.
In the series of works titles X-Rayed, Malluh plays wih the issue of traveling. As Malluh explains her work, "not all the revenue from oil has been spent on building Saudi infrastructure. A lot of money has been spent on traveling and tourism. When Saudis travel abroad, they are faced with more than usual scrutiny and security checks. Some bags contain minor objects without any real purpose. But because they may have some Arabic text in them, or they may have a picture of the Saudi King, the bags are screened and double-checked for security purposes".
The series ‘X-Rayed’ looks at the issue of traveling from a different angle, "rather than the objects being innocent, this time, I used cassettes, which had recordings of religious sermons, preaching a rigid interpretation of Islam. These cassettes manage to get through security checkpoints".
"My inspiration for art comes from my country, a land of contrasting images and ideas. I began working with collage, a technique of collecting, cutting, and pasting objects and images on paper and canvas. These early works, which included symbols and motifs from the local culture, expressed my view about life in Saudi Arabia. These projects also represented my spiritual connection to the historic region of Najd with its strong religious and cultural heritage, colorful patterned fabrics, and old Najdi architecture. These elements greatly influenced my art. Moving from collage to photography felt like a natural evolution of my art. I always liked photo-collage and its use of overlays and layers. I began working with traditional black and white photography and over the years became obsessed with the relationship between light and shadow. In order to develop and print my own images, I had to build my own darkroom. It was the only way to control both quality and content, the two most important factors in making fine art prints. My fascination with photograms grew out of my interest in combining collages and photography. I work with thematic series, 20 images each, where my first photograms series, Capturing Light, focused on medical subjects. The Tradition & Modernity series presents photograms close to the edge of Arabia, my own culture and its transformation from tradition to modernity. The Shemagh Mirage series is a portrayal of the urban man in Saudi Arabia."
Text courtesy ARNDT.