The Saudi Art Council (SAC) has launched its ninth edition of the 21,39 Jeddah Arts exhibition, taking visitors on a new adventure into “Amakin”.

The new exhibition, curated by art historian Venetia Porter, displays works by 27 local and international artists. Inspired by a line from a song by popular Saudi singer Mohammed Abdu – “al-amakin kullaha mushtaqah lak”, which translates to “all the places long for you”, it urges participating artists to take visitors into their makan, or a place they love, be it real or based on their imagination.

The “Amakin” exhibition will also be hosted by Ithra in Dhahran from June 30 to September 30.

Catalina Swinburn’s sculptures are produced by intricately weaving together pages from books to construct seemingly robust structures. They can be two dimensional like Inana, or turn into garments evoking cloaks, armour or robes of honour which she wears as performance. Through a labour-intensive approach which she likens to a ritual, the material is transformed from the single pages of a text to something from her imagination: the final composition appears like a mosaic. She describes these works as ‘a geometrical tapestry’. In both a physical and symbolic way, her work is multi-layered.

What you see through the plaited surface of Inana are fragments of a bronze sculpture combined with text. These are from the volume on the civilisation of Sumer one of 28 that comprise The Universe of Forms, an encyclopaedia printed in Paris and Madrid that Swinburn found by chance in Argentina and Chile. ‘Like the objects they describe’, she says, ‘these books have been displaced from their original sites.’ The title Inana, is after the Ancient Sumerian goddess known as The Queen of Heaven. For the texts, Swinburn chose the pages of the index that relate in particular to the ancient Elamite period and objects made of brass and copper discovered at particular sites. The names which appear in the index: Syracuse, Syria along with names of objects, materials and techniques are glimpsed tantalisingly across the folds.

The act of tearing and re-folding paper recalls for Swinburn the geopolitical reality of mass displacement that the wars of the 20th and 21st centuries have caused across the Middle East and wider region. Through the carefully selected source material of her works, she maintains connection to ancient civilisations for which she feels particular affinity.  Another important aspect to the work is the act of weaving itself, for depending on their function, textiles have a sacred role, they also tell stories about gender and class and female resilience. ‘These pieces talk.’

Venetia Porter, Amakin, Jeddah, 2022


Inanna, 2021
Woven paper from brass and copper displaced archaeological pieces from the Elamite period and archaeological index on the civilization Sumer.

H: 150 W: 180
Courtesy the artist and Selma Feriani Gallery, London and Tunis.