New York Photo Review
NYPR Archives - 2010

Censorship, Drawing and Photography in Saudi Arabia
Jowhara AlSaud
Jowhara AlSaud, Cocotte, 2010

In Jowhara Alsaud’s first solo exhibition in New York, she explores visual censorship and its effects on communication, a subject that is a constant presence in her native country of Saudi Arabia. In these multilayered images she first draws the subjects, omitting attributes of the faces, then etches the drawings onto the surface of an 8x10 or 4x5 inch negative, which has already been photographed with the background for her scene. With this technique, Alsaud brings elements used by the censors on public communications into her own artwork; confronting the stigma surrounding the “personal portrait” as it moves from the realm of private viewing into the larger public space.

Each artwork is a striking image, which looks like a line drawing or sketch, rather than a formal portrait photograph. In “Cocotte,” an individual in a party dress holds a cup and seems to be in mid dance, the background is lace, but there is no eyes, lips, or nose. The person is stripped of these identifiers, yet a viewer can clearly interpret the action, spirit and sense of the mood and space. In “Fan,” three faceless individuals, lean back and forth as a breeze comes over them, the sense of action and a light-hearted feeling comes through even without the distinguishing markers or characteristics associated with a face. Alsaud all at once makes a poignant comment that even with the suppression or editing of data by the censors, a society that is fabricated with intelligent people will ultimately fill in the blanks created to protect the laws of decorum and morality.

 by unidentified photographer.
Jowhara AlSaud, Fan, 2010

With this series Alsaud has created both a personal and public resonance to her artworks. Each charismatic photograph creates visual interest and a beauty that is used to circumvent the laws or codes of decorum and confront a historical oppression of freedom of speech.

Jowhara AlSaud

Witzenhausen Gallery
547 W 27th St. 5th Fl
Chelsea         Map

212 239 1124

Thursday, October 14 to
Saturday, November 13, 2010
Hours: Tues - Sat, 11 to 6