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Abdul Aziz Mehdi Conveys Love For Heritage

Art becomes a noble message when the artist is devoted to bringing out the best in humanity and one’s culture. Saudi artist Abdul Aziz Mehdi employs energy and passion to convey his love for heritage and the Arabic culture. His kinetic paintings and sculptures on Asir’s culture and heritage tell a story of a man embracing his culture. He still remembers his beginning in school. “It was an important source of creativity. My teacher, artist Zuhair Hassan, discovered my passion to paint and draw the nature,” he told Arab News. He pursued his interest in art during high school supported by his school’s headmaster Sharaf Al-Shamrani, who “gave me space and time to work on my sculptures.” While he was showing his artistic work in Miftaha fine village, he met fine artist Dia’ Aziz and learned more about impressionist art style, and varied forms of sculptures. His passion continued during college as he chose to study art education, which he says, helped shape his artistic identity and showed him his direction. His art work tends to portray movement such as running horses, sea waves and any moment that expresses the moving nature. For Mehdi, the color is the most important component in a painting. “This is the style I like, and I train my students to focus on mixing colors and employ them in life and paintings,” he said. “The clean colors are the base of the paintings’ creativity particularly nature’s colors.” Mehdi heads the art department at the Saudi Society of Fine Arts in Abha. He loves oil paints and likes degrees of purple, orange and warm colors of the desert. “Each one of my paintings expresses me, and conveys messages about human’s accomplishments,” he said. He considers himself a positive man avoiding criticism and only focusing on the beautiful things in the universe. “For me, I like to show what benefits humanity such as Islam and Islamic arts, the ancient Arabic culture, civilization, old heritage, calligraphy, and patterning,” he told Arab News.  He believes that nature has a powerful influence on artists. “I like drawing Ar’ar trees, and this tree is a creative school on its own,” he said. Some of these trees are 300-years-old and Mehdi enjoys drawing the beauty and history lines on these trees. “I have an art project about Arar including drawings, photos and sculptures.” Mehdi takes conceptual art as his direction. “I like presenting an idea through sculptures, like the one I presented criticizing terrorism. Another one I made was called book oxidization tackling books ignoring issue,” Mehdi explained.  The Saudi artist has presented his work in more than a hundred festivals and galleries in Saudi Arabia, the Gulf and around the world. One art work, however, was very remarkable. Pendulum balls was an idea Mehdi presented in the Jeddah international Festival. The art work attracting visitors, includes five balls held to the top representing different meanings related to the Islamic heritage and denouncing terrorism. “The main idea is to express the Islamic heritage and denounce terrorism,” he said explaining that each ball symbolizes an idea.  The first one carries the first currency Muslims used in the Umayyad period declaring the economic independence of the Islamic state. The second ball represents the Islamic helmet used in Jihad, where decorations on the helmet prove the Muslim’s love for life and that they are fighting to win and live and not intending to die. Planet earth was drawn on the third ball, to prove that Islam is a peaceful religion that reached around the globe. The fourth ball reminds that Islamic sciences were the core of the science in the world. A bomb was the fifth ball embodying terrorism, which the artist believes is not related to Islam or its peaceful nature. When the pendulum works, the first ball representing the Islamic currency hits the other balls kicking the last terrorism ball outside the system. The artist hopes his project stresses that Islam and terrorism can’t be in one place. Currently, he is working on a sculpture called The Isra and Mi’raj and another one named “vague feelings.” “In this art work, I am keen on conveying my students’ feelings where I will walk with them on a journey inside a student’s spiritual mind. “Their artistic feelings and views are different from ours,” he said. The conceptual art has become an international art where talented people use the environment as a source of inspiration to their materials. Some use fire extinguishers, or the world map, for example to present their ideas. The fine art movement is headed to the Middle East between Jeddah, Qatar and Dubai. Mehdi still believes the realistic style is the base of all arts; however, his favorite sculpture is a conceptual one and linked to higher education thesis. “It starts from the engineering design to the final shape in a costly work,” Mehdi says. “I love presenting these ideas and keeping them in my art gallery in Miftaha village.” Saudi art has been able to reach all corners of the globe; art workshops and artisans’ societies help the artists develop their production. Artists Abdullah Al-Shalti and Abdullah Hamas to name a few have made it to the international arena conveying the Asir art, not to forget female artists who had a strong presence, especially in the past five years. Mehdi hopes to continue portraying sculptures, paintings and beautiful images of his city Abha. With the coordination of Asir mayoralty and artists Faye Al-Almali and Ayed Attas, he will work in sculptures and murals in Abha, Jazan, Al-Darb, and Al-Shaqiq. “I believe in the role of the artist in planning and beautifying the cities,” he said. The murals were collages using ceramic and iron, showing popular folk decorations and Arabic calligraphy words to reflect the region’s culture and heritage. Mehdi wishes to hold a personal exhibition and present his work in the Jeddah art week, a platform for Gulf and Saudi Arabian artists, and hopes that the Culture and Information Ministry would support artists and art associations to help talented people thrive.