It was a thrilling experience for the American artist Grimanesa Amoros to bring her light touch to the Saudi Kingdom through the Noor Riyadh festival, the world’s largest annual light exhibition, which runs until Feb. 4, 2023.
At the center of Amoros’ ‘Amplexus’ is a nucleus, an embodiment of the escalation of Islamic Art in the era of digital boom.
Positioned at the front entrance of the Cultural Palace, “Amplexus” mixes cultural motifs in a fiery red tangle of LED light.
The artist is visiting Saudi Arabia at a time of rapid cultural and social change, and said that she sees light “as a means of connection.”
She continued that “I was quite excited to work with the Noor Riyadh festival because it was an opportunity to bridge the gap between people and light.”
The artist’s creative journey began right from childhood, where she dreamt of becoming a traveler, who could memorize
the location of countries and their capitals. Creativity was something like a map to her.
Light is something unique. The light gives a city, a belonging, and makes its residents aware of their environment.
The lights in Riyadh were an inspiration to Amoros. “You are constantly surrounded by this light from above, almost to the clouds. Light is also conducted — there is this electric feeling,” she said.
Most of her ideas were birthed from nature, and yet she derives inspiration from the sight of Iceland’s northern lights, which always left her mesmerized and determined to share her experiences with others.
And she has. After appearing at the 54th Venice Biennale and the Christmas display in Times Square, her work has traveled across the globe, settling into the multicultural Diplomatic Quarter of the Saudi capital.
“Through all my travels, you face new challenges and opportunities, and (they) allow you to see new architecture, which I love. I enjoy making parallels — seeing how cultural landscapes and history interconnect. That, to me, is very interesting and never ceases to fascinate me. That’s why I always say, ‘my life is a romance with the unknown’.”
In this age of digital media, Amoros emphasizes the importance of being well-informed. “For younger artists, I think it’s essential to try to know yourself, and that’s creativity— is a journey that never ends.”
“You always have to consider how your work will affect the state of mind of the person looking at it. For me, it’s essential for my viewers to look at not only the scale and monumentality of the piece but also to consider their personal relationship with the light of my piece.”
After witnessing sunrises and sunsets in the Saudi desert, she believes there is a way, through which one can reveals the unseen beauty of everyday spaces and objects through that most ephemeral and fleeting of mediums — light.
She however, realized that the breathtaking scenes offer tourists the opportunity to enjoy an exceptional experience, with Tabuk’s European features and uncharted territory for Saudis.