"Like few cities on earth, Makkah bristles under the weight of its own dramatic symbolism. It is a hallowed site revered by millions and at the same time a point of perpetual immigration. This has been the case for centuries. Yet over the last few years the city has begun to be recast, reworked and ultimately reconfigured. Makkah is being given a makeover. With this comes a new set of concerns. There is a dissonance today among many of those who live in the city or maintain an emotional stake in its future regarding what this place is, what it could be or what it should be, all of which provides a contextual background to Mater’s urban exploration."
Born in Abha in 1979, Ahmed Mater is recognised as one of the most influential of Saudi Arabian artists today. He is also, as he puts it, a man of many masks. As well as being a qualified GP he is a landscape photographer and the face of one of the region’s largest mobile phone companies.
Born and raised in Abha, capital of Aseer (a region to the south of Saudi Arabia), Mater remains rooted in his Aseeri local identity. As well as leading a young artistic collective called Ibn Aseer (Son of Aseer), he is an integral part of the recent history of Abha’s Miftaha Arts Village, part of the King Fahad Cultural Centre.
Maters work, widely shown in the Middle East and in Europe and in the collection of the British Museum and Los Angeles County Museum of Art, is informed by his education and life as a medical doctor, as well as by his traditional religious upbringing and Saudi culture. His work, which encompasses photography, calligraphy, painting, installation and video, explores the narratives and aesthetics of Islamic culture in an era of globalisation, consumerism and dramatic flux. A monograph on Ahmed Mater’s life and work was published internationally by Booth-Clibborn Editions in 2010.