Born in Qatif, Saudi Arabia, 1971, Hussein Al Mohasen has been active in the art scene of the Gulf region since his first appearance in 1999 at the Al-Janadriya Festival in his native Saudi Arabia, where he has since then occupied an important place alongside the pioneering Saudi artists. Al Mohasen’s work, characterised by a singular dialogue between the audience and the artist, conceives of images and visual environments as a series of dialogical snapshots. These images are never static; Al Mohasen’s sharp-coloured stenciled images translate into continuous and extended narratives of experience. They are not only attempting to describe the world, but actively participate in it.
The Saudi artist has since moved away from expressionist and abstract surfaces, into symbolic and iconographic imagery, reflecting the on-going transitions of the contemporary between digital and real, political and social, private and public and the continuous urban and cultural transformations of the Gulf region, oscillating between Modernity’s already liquid and solid traditions and national histories. Unlike many artists in the Middle East now moving from the canvas to the stencil, Al Mohasen is keenly aware of the sense of irony found in the genre of pop art since the outset, and successfully incorporates his humorous readings into the altogether tragic narratives of contemporary Arab history. His work is both conceptual and liberating; drawing from the versatility of public art.
Without negating pictorial depth, Al Mohasen’s stencils surface with almost sculptural forms, breaking out of the formal limits of the frame, sometimes on paper, often on canvas; inscribing text-based installations charged with innuendos, but never giving in to melancholy. The apparent flat dimensions become performative and uproarious, using space not as a frame but as an empty gap in which different universal readings of history collide simultaneously as an opening, revealing a field of meaning which is political only insofar as it is the product of a collective action. The artist is only recollecting the debris of mass media-generated realities and investing them with a tangible body, a body of proof, if you may. His works are not meant to be contemplated, but taken in with the full weight of the present.
Behind the apparently obvious simplicity of his works, there lurks a decades-long journey shaped by poetry from the Arab world and the complex intersections between modern spaces and personal freedom. Al Mohasen’s work is a global endeavor, incorporating regional paradigms and presenting – rather than merely representing – the Arab experience of the contemporary after the fashion of the poetry and music that inspired him: In spite of the broken parables that divide us, at the very end, we all speak the same language.