Physician turned artist, Ahmed Mater is one of the most significant cultural voices documenting and scrutinising the realities of contemporary Saudi Arabia. Forging an ongoing, complex mapping of the Kingdom, his practice explores collective memories to uncover and record unofficial histories. The historical, geographical and topical breadth of his research-led inquiries are sharpened by the incisive actions of his conceptual works. With this scope, Mater imagines possible prognoses for a land of unprecedented religious, social, economic, and political influence.
Born in 1979, the intense conclusion to a decade of momentous economic and political upheaval, Mater witnessed a rapidly transforming society whose changes diverged into extraordinary social shifts and trenchant ideologies.
Growing up in Abha, a city in the fertile mountainous region close to the border with Yemen, his early years were geographically remote from the Kingdom’s dominant religious and administrative capitals. The perspective granted by his physical distance exposed him to the modernising world beyond the border. From this vantage, he witnessed the throes of the most seismic period in Saudi history – the Kingdom’s oil boom and the tensions between religion and power. Part of the earliest contemporary art movements in the Kingdom, with Edge of Arabia, the seminal Shatta and Mostly Visible exhibitions and then with his Jeddah pharan studio, Ahmed’s creative career has been at the forefront of the transforming Saudi cultural sector.
His life has been lived poised at intersections, tracing fracturing fault lines of vying systems: past, present and future; tradition and innovation; heritage and globalisation; religion, faith, economic prowess and modernisation.
Using photography, film, sculpture and performance, he maps, documents and analyses these changes, considering the psychological impact on the individual, the community, society, and the world.