Hana Al Saadi’s Home Rules at Wusum Gallery

Wusum Gallery brings contemporary Qatari artist Hana Al-Saadi’s first solo exhibition titled Home Economics that brings together previous and recent works by the artist spanning sculpture, painting, sound, and installation. The exhibition is ongoing till June 5, 2024 and is the artists’ satirical look at religious and geographical representation and tradition. 

Hana Al Saadi has a streak of rebellion tinged with a good amount of humour that is reflected in her works of art. It is these dichotomies, aided with her ability to serve sarcasm and satire in equal measure that makes Hana’s work a delight for the viewer. You are never quite sure what the artist wants us to see; it is almost as if Hana Al Saadi wants us to perceive what she has tried to camouflage with her works of art.

Qatari artist Hana Al-Saadi lives and works in Doha. She obtained her BFA in Painting and Printmaking from VCUarts Qatar in 2015 and went on to complete her MFA in Sculpture from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2021. She has exhibited her work locally and internationally for over ten years, including at Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art (Doha), the Fire Station (Doha), International Studio & Curatorial Program (NYC), Cosmoscow (Moscow), Saatchi Gallery (London), Yuz Museum (Shanghai), among others.

Hana Al Saadi’s body of work invites viewers to explore subjects that relate to domesticity, representation, materiality, the feminine body, traditions, all while contemplating the evolving landscape of technology.

There has been one constant in Hana Al-Saadi’s work and that is her love and passion for art and it all comes together in this space. Her body of work is rooted in concepts that examine the fluidity of form and the intersection of societal and personal narratives. By finding loopholes within conventional boundaries, she confronts the inherent paradoxes that lie within established societal conventions.

In the grand entrance of Wusum Gallery, the space is conceived as a domestic space and the exhibition fragments the segments of home and dissects forecasted identities that are casted within Khaleeji households. Hana also reflects on the wake of camera-equipped phones and how they altered our privacy and collective consciousness.

Central to the exhibition is an interactive installation of soft sculptures, called Skin Tiles, which invites visitors to immerse themselves in Hana Al-Saadi’s envisioned abode, with marbled rubber tiles as carpets or seating points mimicking the texture of her own covered skin.

A silicone mould gives way to these skin-like textures which could function as an object of function in the house. The artist sees her Skin Tiles showcased in abandon in this imaginary house as a form of rebellion against religious impositions of exhibited skin.

“With this artwork I am trying to find a loophole in the system to do what I am not allowed to do. So, I am metaphorically showcasing my skin, which I am not allowed to in reality,” explains Hana, giving us a glimpse of the rebel.

“I also used a background of sounds that is used in shows by Islamic scholars. They did not use musical instruments and even though they were forbidden to listen to music, the scholars found a way around this and it is to show this loop in the system that actually makes even wrong seem right that I used this background sounds,” explains Hana Al-Saadi who has recorded her sound to mimic this process, to make this a very personal viewpoint of hers.

My Best Friend and I

The exhibition also revisits Hana’s earlier works, such as My Best Friend and I and But these are Saudi Colours, an erring a juxtaposition of adulthood and childhood experiences.

Saudi Colours

In Endless Work, Unless the Power is Out, Hana pays tribute to her late-grandmother by incorporating her sewing machine into an art installation. This one tugs at our heart as we get to see a glimpse into the artists life that is filled with longing for the ones who are no more alive.

Endless Work, Unless the Power is Out

“I have used a shoe that I wore when I grandmother was alive and used it in this installation and this is to show that the new generation needs to look and take lessons from the past generation. The machine was working when I first exhibited it but later it stopped and that is fine too. It just shows that life is not a constant and that we have to meet it midway and take it from there.”

Skin Tiles

“I divided my work by colours and arranged them accordingly,” says Hana, “As if my artwork is a thing on display and it is arranged to be sold,” she says as she looks metaphorically at her own exhibition space and finds the best way to showcase them.

All the Skin Tiles presented look different from each other though they are an amalgamation of the same process. Hana says, “I do not like works that are similar to each other. I feel as an artist you should experiment and find new ways of expressing yourself.”

Skin Tiles

Hana has an interdisciplinary practice, spanning sculpture, painting, and sound and yet they have a similar thread connecting them. All her works of art are critical of religious practices that one blindly follows and her work is a silent yet evocative protest disguised in art.

One entire segment of Wusum Gallery is filled with works of art that is an exploration of dualities, blurring the lines between the living and non-living.

Central to this space is a large art work of a picture taken during a class photo opportunity. All the men and women are neatly arranged, in perfect symmetry.

“It is very ironic to me that they chose this level of details to get a group picture, as if confining to some invisible rule of a perfect Instagrammable picture,” she says.

The set of Khaleeji portraits that are seen in this part of the gallery are inspired or recreated from Shutterstock images. And with these recreations, Hana wants to stress that what you see is not always true, for Khaleeji’s would never pose in public platforms, they are forbidden to.

“Though these images are representative of the Khaleejis, they are not truly one of us. I have used tent fabric to represent the black and white dress codes that we follow. After I took the images from Shutterstock, and recreated the same in cardboard pieces. I wanted to showcase the process of making it. This is to showcase that our forecasted identity is easy to recreate as we are all supposed to look the same,” she says.

Witty, edgy, and deliberative, Hana possesses an unparalleled ability to combine the personal and societal. She actively continues to create presentations of the absurdity, in this case in domestic contexts, that is central to her practice

“All the work you see here is a critique of the things that happen around us,” informs Hana, without a dash of remorse but with firm belief of what her art should be.

So, what happens if Hana’s her work ruffles feathers, especially in a society where one is extremely careful in keeping with customs and traditions. “I am careful, but I do not change my style to please anyone, I rather camouflage it in layers of art which if scrutinised in detail would reveal the intended critique.”.