© 2016 Copyright | Ahmed Mater | All Rights Reserved 

Illumination of man

In Saudi, the old and traditional beliefs collapsed. I denied my ex- isting values. I went through an in- ner turmoil but still learned from traditional teachings imposed on me, whether religious, cultural, social or political. I assimilated all these ideas and then tried to de- stroy them.


Out of this turmoil emerged a great dilemma that gave birth to many experiments in my art: my rejec- tion, my obedience, my religion... everything that surrounds me. I am searching, like so many of my generation in Saudi, for ideas, for music, for poetry, for a glimpse of a different kind of life...


The Illumination series is some of my most recognizable work, show- ing how I have injected my life into the objective world of modern medicine with my subjective world of faith and spirituality. Often using DNA codes embedded into tradi- tional Quranic manuscripts, I want my works to illuminate, to give light. Most people will read Evolution of Man as an unabashed critique of humanity’s dependence on oil and what “black gold” represents to those living above the reserves. But Evolution of Man is more than just a political statement:

I am a doctor and confront life and death every day, and I am a coun- try man at the same time. I am the son of this strange, scary oil civiliza- tion. In ten years, our lives changed completely. It is a drastic change that I experience every day.

The Cowboy Code is something I have thought about for years. When I was a child, the cowboy was always a symbol of freedom and adventure, an ideology that came from the West and assimilat- ed itself into my culture. I challenge anyone who reads the code not to be impressed. Like many of my generation, I have taken a lot from the West, our food, our clothes, our language and so I wanted to present this code as a way almost to steal it back. It’s a strong side and I want to reclaim it from the politics, and the films, and the media and give it back to the people.

Ahmed Mater was born into a tra- ditional Aseeri family in 1979 in Saudi Arabia. At 18, he became a founding member of the influen- tial Al-Miftaha Arts Village in Abha, while studying medicine. Ahmed is a co-founder of Edge of Arabia and one of the Arab world’s lead- ing young artists. His works, which encompass pho- tography, calligraphy, painting, in- stallation, performance and video Mater’s work has been exhibited in- ternationally and in the collections of the British Museum and Los An- geles County Museum of Art.It speaks a universal truth. But in recent times we have forgotten the code in favor of the brand. The Cowboy Code is a set of values and the content is like a religion. But the cowboy of my childhood has been abused, in the same way a cowboy of my childhood has been abused, in the same way a religion is abused, like the 10 com- mandments, or the sharia, or the 5 pillars.

August 11, 2011 | NY Art Magazine