Manal Al Dowayan

In her photographic series and more recently her installations, Manal Al-Dowayan examines the Saudi identity.  Questions raised by her work concern the female condition, symbols of community loyalties, technological changes and the relationship to the world that these imply.  Her art combines a graphic yet refined aesthetic: elegant portraits of women, neon writing, what would seem glamourous motifs (jewels, doves, tattoos).  But an incongruous element will always be thrown in to disturb these studied seductive scenes: (workman’s tools in the series I am,) or the direct use of a paint bomb and a stencil (And We Had No Shared Dreams).

Manal Al-Dowayan was born in 1973 in Dhahran, in the East of Saudi Arabia.  Whilst studying advanced computing (in Saudi Arabia, then Boston and London), she learnt how to shoot and develop photographs. Having worked for a long time as an engineer for a national oil company, in a very confined and predominantly male environment (only 3% of Saudi women are active in the professional world) she now devotes herself entirely to her artistic practice.

Her artworks have been promoted by institutions such as the British Council and the United Nations.  She was in residence in 2009 at the Delfina Foundation in London, and has taken part since 2008 in the project “Edge of Arabia” with which she has shown at the Venice Biennale in 2009 and 2011, in Berlin and Istanbul (2010) as well as in Dubai (2011).  She has participated in exhibitions such as Self Representation in the Arabian Gulf in Doha, Qatar, in 2007, Reorientations in Brussels, in 2008, at the Barjeel Foundation in Sharjah, UAE in 2010 and in Strike Oppose in 2011, Fluid Form I, in Seoul, Korea in 2010, Freedom to Create at Sarajevo in 2011.

[1] Photo credit; Camille Zakharia