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Light installation 'Oasis' by Arne Quinze is an embodiment of life in the desert

Belgian conceptual artist Arne Quinze was invited by the LVMH advisor Hervé Mikaeloff to create a public installation for the second edition of Noor, a light and art festival in Riyadh.

by Dilpreet BhullarPublished on : Mar 25, 2023

The magnanimous installations by the conceptual artist Arne Quinze are synonymous with fantastical value. Not deviating from this core value is the public installation Oasis. For the second edition of Noor, a light and art festival in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, the LVMH advisor Hervé Mikaeloff, one of the curators of the festival, invited Belgian artist Quinze to create a public installation in the midst of the Riyadh desert.​ Amidst the vast expanse of the desert, an encounter with the large-scale light installation is an experience nothing short of surrealism. The art installation stands as an embodiment of life in a place where the streak of life is seldom recognised. 

Quinze tries to capture the strength, fragility and diversity of nature through intensive art practice. The inspiration for all his artworks is rooted in his wildflower garden: Oasis too has its roots in his garden. For Noor, he also researched vegetation in Riyadh and the desert. In an interview with STIR, Quinze talks about the birth of an idea from his studio where currently 1,00,000 flowers and plants are planted, "Every day, I am amazed by the beauty and diversity that I find in my garden. In fact, I see my garden as my laboratory and that too, all four seasons of the year. The whole process of the flower and plant fascinates me, and I find them equally beautiful. From the beginning to the end, you see the strength and fragility of the plant. That's why I believe greatly in the Japanese term Mono No Aware–the beauty in transience.” 

Oasis at twilight |Arne Quinze | Noor Riyadh| STIRworld
Oasis at twilight Image: Arne Quinze

The visual artist draws a parallel between Riyadh and Oasis—the bustling capital surrounded by desert, like a growing flower is like a bulb that goes through all its phases until it stands strong to grow and bloom. The project in a developing city was an honour in order to develop amongst the emerging cultural initiatives. Yet, it does not take away the fact that in terms of execution, it is indeed difficult to translate the conceptual understanding of the garden to the porous desert space. Quinze elaborates that after visiting the area and doing research, he started making a maquette that is his expression of organic forms, colour and light of an Oasis in the desert. He continues to mention, “This maquette was turned into 3D images and plans by my engineering team. With these plans, I was able to get started in the steel atelier. With a team of 30 people, we worked for three weeks from sunrise to sunset to install Oasis, completely self-sufficient in warm temperatures. Of course, you bump into a lot of problems, delays, last-minute decisions, and innovative solutions. But that is all part of the process.” 

Closer view of Oasis for Noor festival in Riyadh|Arne Quinze | Noor Riyadh| STIRworld
Closer view of Oasis for Noor festival in Riyadh Image: Arne Quinze

When asked about the importance of an immersive experience around a public installation such as Oasis, Quinze brings attention to the dire effect of the Anthropocene age. The researcher in him discloses, how since his birth in 1971, more than 30 per cent of our flora and fauna have disappeared because of our human intervention. For the audience, his installation could be mistaken as an extension of a decorative approach, but he succinctly mentions how he is driven by the duty as "an artist to plant a seed in the viewer's mind with my art and inspire them to join me in rethinking our society and empowering nature.”

ArtistArne Quinze| Noor Riyadh| STIRworld
Artist Arne Quinze Image: Jim Lindberg

Finding interdependency between nature and the urban environment, Quinze holds the diversity of nature as a repository of learning experience—a way for the cities to draw meaning from it. "I believe that the day we start building cities with the same diversity and beauty as nature, only then will we have human cities." It is a crucial moment in time to bring colour and nature back into our society. He confirms, "To date, I have been creating art installations for over 30 years with the aim of encouraging people to re-energise themselves with new insights. To open them up and learn to embrace nature back into their daily lives and communities.” 

Harking on the desolated look and perception of the desert, the celebratory glow of the illuminated Oasis extends a warm invitation to experience a sense of astonishment of nature. The unearthly appearance of the installation for Quinze stimulates the minds of the viewers who are motivated to see the "dynamic light, futuristic soundscape, elegant shapes and dynamic colours. Just like a story you dive into; the sculpture is taking you on an adventure." The vast horizon of the installation acts as a site to activate purposive thinking about possibilities to bring the rich and diverse range of colour and organic forms of nature into daily life. A walk around the installation is an opportune moment to gauge the flow of new horizons through the beauty and power of public art

Viewersat Oasis for Noor festival |Arne Quinze | Noor Riyadh| STIRworld
Viewers at Oasis for Noor festival Image: Arne Quinze

Towards the end of the interview, Quinze vividly recollects a sliver of his personal anecdote, "The large scale of Oasis recalls when, as a child, I lay on my back in the grass and nature floated above me. I saw nature from below and was completely overwhelmed by it. Nowadays, humans are always trying to bend nature to their will, with my large-scale installations I want to show that we as humans are submissive to the powerful and diverse nature." 

Oasis installed in a desert for Noor festival in Riyadh Video: Arne Quinze

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