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Shift22 Showcases Graffiti, A Once-Repressed Art Form

A street art event called SHIFT22 will have its first edition in Riyadh and will display a variety of commissioned and pre-existing pieces picked to honor street art from around the world, showcasing one of the newest art genres in the Kingdom.

This year's festival, organized by the New York-based artistic organization Creative Philosophy, will focus on the theme of patterns and draw inspiration from the Irqah Hospital's architecture. The festival is hosted in the former hospital in keeping with the tradition of painting graffiti on derelict and underground locations. It will include works by more than 30 local and international artists, concentrating on unusual sculptures made from recycled hospital materials, sound and video installations, and murals.

The work by Saudi artist Deyaa Rambo is motivated by the country's present realities and transition. He told Arab News that the Arabic name for running, "harwala," depicts a civilization that only advances consciously. Rambo’s piece reimagines a contemporary Saudi as an anonymous individual jogging along in a traditional thobe and shemagh, drawing inspiration from fanciful features.

In the early 2000s Rambo established the first graffiti shop in the Kingdom, DHAD. They have worked regionally to create inspiring, distinctive interiors and exteriors in partnership with educational institutions, exhibitions, galleries, and businesses like Mercedes and HP. The community's art received recognition on a global scale and was shown at exhibitions and occasions across the Gulf region and abroad.

Zeinab Al-Mahoozi, another Saudi artist, contributed a mural, using stencil techniques, of a whimsical self-portrait in which she is seen releasing a bird into a remote region of the cosmos.

Visual Arts Commission's CEO Dina Amin said: “Shift22 is part of the commission’s efforts to celebrate and encourage local and international visual artists by providing platforms for creative exchange and dialogue.”

The 20-year career of Europe-based Australian artist James Reka began with traditional letterform graffiti, and later evolved into figures and characters. Reka's art is abstract and follows his distinctive style, but it conveys a message of oneness. The mural's multicolored hands reaching for one another when viewed up close reinforce the notion that love and community are at the core of the graffiti movement.

The festival will exhibit works by well-known and up-and-coming artists, like Saudi REXCHOUK and Turkish-American Refik Anadol, Huda Beydoun, Crash, and Trevor Andrew, in addition to workshops, seminars, and other events showcasing the various aspects of street art.

The festival will run until Oct. 30 alongside live music, streetwear shops, street food, breakdancing, and skateboarding.

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