Ahmed Mater /   Ahmed Mater Al-Ziad Aseeri

Saudi Arabia 1979

Installation, Conceptual Art, Photography, Painting


Ahmed Mater
Ahmed Mater Al-Ziad Aseeri
Saudi Arabia
August 25, 2017
Alias of Jasmina Sevic, a researcher and author for Widewalls. She graduated from the Faculty of Political Science (Department for Journalism) in Belgrade in 2013.

The contemporary art scene in the Saudi Arabia has developed rapidly over the past decade. A fresh generation of artists has pushed the Kingdom on a global stage with bold works that explore the past, describe the present, and imagine the future. Engaging wide range of media, techniques and performances, a new wave of Saudi Arabian creative are finding ways to explore even controversial issues of religion and culture. One of the artist who has been at the forefront of Saudi contemporary art is Ahmed Mater whose work has been on display in galleries across the globe. Embracing diverse media, his art incorporates both social critique and respect for religion in an era of globalization, consumerism and urbanization.

ahmed mater golden hour artwork view
Ahmed Mater – Golden Hour, 2011

Ibn Aseer (Son of Aseer)

Hailing from Abha, the capital of Asir province in Saudi Arabia, Mater is a man of many talents. He has been a practicing artist for over 25 years creating works that offer a new perspective on his native country. His work encompasses sculpture, video, photography, calligraphy, painting and installation. Mater is a founding member of Ibn Aseer, meaning Son of Aseer, a group of young emerging artists. He played an integral part in the Al-Miftaha Arts Village that quickly became one of the main projects in King Fahad’s Cultural Centre developed to show how modernization can be achieved within the boundaries of Saudi Arabia’s cultural traditions. He is also a doctor at the local hospital.

His work encompasses sculpture, video, photography, calligraphy, painting and installation

ahmed mater desert of pharan series
Ahmed Mater – The Courtyard of Paradise, 2015, from the series From Artificial Light / Desert of Pharan series


In one of his most famous pieces to date, entitled Magnetism, 2012, Mater fused art, science and the concept of identity and religion. The central focus of the piece is a magnet cube that resembles Kaʿbah, also spelled Kaaba, a small shrine in Mecca considered by Muslims everywhere to be the most sacred spot on Earth. Around the cube are a spiral patterns made of tens of thousands of particles of iron evoking the Hajj, an annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, that include a series of rituals like walking counter-clockwise seven times around the House of God. The overall aim of the artist is simple, but enchantingly alluring.

In Magnetism, Mater fuses art, science and the concept of identity and religion

ahmed mater magnetism
Ahmed Mater – Magnetism (Photograuve) IV, 2012

X-ray Paintings by Ahmed Mater

Many of Mater’s earlier pieces have medical or scientific underpinnings, reflecting his medical training. The X-ray paintings from his notable Illuminations and Evolution of Man series fuse the distinctive Islamic motifs such as the images of the Kaaba and a mosque or religiously orientated quotations, with real X- Ray photography. The artist tries to investigate the relationship between divergent perceptions of the human body combining scientific reference, medical imagery and religious symbolism in a truly inimitable way.

Mater’s pieces often have medical or scientific underpinnings

ahmed mater illumination desert
Ahmed Mater – Illumination XV & XVI, 2010

Edge of Arabia

Edge of Arabia is an independent arts initiative cofounded by Mater and his colleagues Abdulnasser Gharem and Stephen Stapleton, in 2003. The project is committed to reaching new audiences and developing the appreciation of contemporary Arab art and culture through touring, non-commercial and free exhibitions, through publications, and through education programs targeting schools and universities. Edge of Arabia officially launched with the exhibition at Brunei Gallery in London, UK in October 2008. The show included seventeen emerging artists from the county located in the Arabian Peninsula.

installation view of borderland artwork from desert of pharan series by ahmed mater
Ahmed Mater – Borderland, 2012, from Desert of Pharan series

Exhibitions and Collections

Mater’s art has been widely exhibited in individual and collective shows throughout the world including such galleries and museums as Sharjah Museum, Sharjah, UAE; The Vinyl Factory Gallery, London, UK; Artspace, Dubai, UAE; New Museum, New York, USA; Pompidou Center, Paris, France; and Framer Framed, Amsterdam, The Netherland, to name a few. He participated at the Venice Biennale in 2009 and 2011. Many of his works are found in the prestigious collections like Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, USA; The British Museum, London, UK; Centre Pompidou, Paris, France; Smithsonian Museum, Washington D.C., USA; Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing, China; Victoria & Albert Museum, London, UK, and others.

ahmed mater disarm
Ahmed Mater – Disarm 01, 2013

Arwa Alneami and Ahmed Mater

Along with his wife, Arwa Alneami, also an artist, Mater owns a private studio in Jeddah – a popular gathering place for emerging and established artists. In a country that doesn’t have a single cinema hall, live theaters or public spaces where men and women should mix and mingle freely, and exchange ideas without inhibitions for religious reasons, Arwa and Ahmed’s salon is a unique spot in the Kingdom. So there is no doubt that in the future, we can expect more from them and their fellow colleagues.

Ahmed Mater lives and works between Abha, Jeddah and Makkah in Saudi Arabia.

Featured image: Portrait of the artist, photo credits – Eoa Projects
All images copyright of the artist

YearExhibition TitleMuseum/GallerySolo/Group
2017Desert of Pharan: Unofficial Histories of The Mass Expansion of MeccaATHR, Dubai, UAESolo
2017LettersATHR, Jeddah, Saudi ArabiaGroup
2016Symbolic Cities: The Work of Ahmed MaterSmithsonian Freer and Sackler Galleries, Washington DCSolo
2015Too Early Too Late. Middle East and ModernityPinacoteca Nazionale,  Bologna, ItalySolo
2014Here & ElsewhwereNew Museum, New York, USAGroup
2014A-HistoryPompidou Center, Paris, FranceGroup
2014A Crisis of HistoryFramer Framed, Amsterdam, The NetherlandsGroup
2013100 Found ObjectsSharjah Museum, Sharjah, UAESolo
2013Towards a New Cultural Cartography, Sharjah Biennale 11Sharjah, UAEGroup
2013Echoes: Islamic Art and Contemporary PracticeNelson Atkins Museum, Kansas City, USAGroup
2013Arab Contemporary: Architecture, Culture and IdentityLouisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk, DenmarkGroup
2013View from Inside, Fotofest BiennaleHouston, USAGroup
2013Homework 6Ashkan Alwan, Beirut, LebanonGroup
2013Hajj: Journey to the Heart of IslamMuseum of Islamic Art, Doha, QatarGroup
2013Light from the Middle EastVictoria & Albert Museum, London, UKGroup
2012Desert of PharanKochi-Muziris Biennale, Kochi, IndiaGroup
2012#COMETOGETHEREdge of Arabia, London, UKGroup
201225 years of Arab CreativityInstitut du Monde Arab, Paris, FranceGroup
2012Hajj: Journey to the Heart of IslamBritish Museum, London, UKGroup
2011West End!Museum on the Seam, Jerusalem, IsraelGroup
2011Arab Express: The Latest from the Arab WorldMori Art Museum, Tokyo, JapanGroup
2011The Future of a PromiseEdge of Arabia, 54th Venice Biennale, Venice, ItalyGroup
2010Ahmed MaterThe Vinyl Factory Gallery, London, UKSolo
2010TRANSITION, Istanbul European Capital of CultureSanat Limanı, Istanbul, TurkeyGroup
2010Grey Borders-Grey FrontiersEdge of Arabia Berlin, Berlin, GermanyGroup
2009IlluminationArtspace, Dubai, UAESolo
2009ADACHPlatform For Visual Arts, 53rd Venice Biennale, Venice, ItalyGroup
2009Edge of ArabiaPalazzo Polignac, 53rd Venice Biennale, Venice, ItalyGroup
2008The OtherCairo Biennale, Cairo, EgyptGroup
2008Edge of ArabiaSOAS Brunei Gallery, London, UKGroup
2007Still Life: Art, Ecology and the Politics of ChangeSharjah Biennial, Sharjah, UAEGroup
2006Son of AseerAl Meftaha Arts Village, Abha, KSASolo
2006Ahmed Mater Al Ziad AseeriRoyal Embassy of Saudi Arabia, London, UKSolo
2006Word into Art: Artists of the Modern Middle EastThe British Museum, London, UKGroup
2005ShattaJeddah Atelier for Fine Arts, Jeddah, Saudi ArabiaGroup
2004The EndAl Meftaha Arts Village, Abha, KSASolo
2004Chewing (Mudgah)Almiftaha Arts Village, Abha, KSASolo
2004Standing in Front of YouKing Khaled University, Abha, KSASolo
2003X-Ray Project: 6th Saudi Malwan Contest TourJeddah, Beirut, Sidon, Manama Solo
2001Landing on the Earth's SurfaceAl-Maseef Culture Club, Abha, KSASolo