Abdulnasser Gharem

Art of Survival – this stands as a kind of preliminary statement to all the work of this artist born in 1973 in Khamis Mushait, Saudi Arabia. Abdulnasser Gharem is surely the only artist to be both a leading figure on his country’s emerging art scene and a major in the Saudi army.

His story began in 2003 when Abdulnasser Gharem, an army recruit, enrolled in the Al-Miftaha Arts Village in Abha, Saudi Arabia. Founded a few years earlier by Ahmed Mater, this institution soon became the nerve centre of the new art scene that was represented in the 2004 exhibition Shattah, which captured the renewal of the Saudi Arabian scene.

From now on, Gharem began using the street as his studio, working in response to his local context. In numerous performances and site-specific installations he drew attention to ecological, geographical, urban and societal issues, recording his actions on video or in photographs. At the same time he was working on a series of stamp paintings in which major events are juxtaposed with the excesses of a bureaucratic system that seems capable of expressing itself only by rubberstamping.

Acclaimed by international critics and now recognised in the Middle East, his work was presented at the 53rd Venice Biennale in 2009 and at the 8th Sharjah Biennial in 2007. His works have been seen in Venice, London, Berlin and Riyad as part of exhibitions organised by Edge of Arabia.