Alma Sarac studied Fine Art and painting in Sarajevo, where she grew up. She moved to Australia in 1991 but once war broke out in Bosnia, she and her husband were forced to stay for longer than the two years they had originally intended. In fact, it wasn’t until the end of the war, four and a half years later, that she was able to return at all. Since those days, she has lived in various cities in Australia and spent several years in Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta. Home for her two older children is Brisbane but home for her means both Brisbane and Sarajevo, where her parents live. Alma exhibited at galleries and group exhibitions and was the finalist of a number of exhibitions. Her last exhibition was at Lasting Impressions Gallery in Australia. Then in July, Alma and her husband relocated to Riyadh and she has begun painting, inspired by the people and architecture here. Her latest pieces are Saudi- inspired landscape collages and larger paintings on woven canvases.
“What I love about Saudi Arabia is that there is a distinct lack of colour because people are generally all wearing white or black and everything is all creamy outside and there is no greenery. So I have to paint figures in a bland way and then give them some colour. I actually find that quite challenging. Every time I move somewhere new, I have to reinvent myself and work out a new technique. What I was painting in Brisbane is completely irrelevant here. Now this is my environment so I have to recreate, drawing on my impressions of this place.
Nyree Cox has always been passionate about photography. She worked as an urban planner but more recently she has studied and now practices photography. She produces greetings cards using the photographs she takes around Riyadh.
“The idea for the business came out of the fact that there are no greetings cards in Saudi Arabia and I am a letter writer. There are other ladies making handmade cards but what I’m doing is a totally different thing and I wanted to make the cards cheap enough that people will be happy to buy them. They cost 5 SAR per card but I also sell them in packs so I am currently selling a pack of small Christmas themed cards. But the biggest shock has been the interest in having enlargements made of my images and this is where more of my business is coming from. I sell at Ishbilia and Kingdom compound coffee mornings and a lot of business comes from my Facebook page. Prices depend on exactly what customers want regarding size, frame type and mounts. Some customers order prints and get them framed themselves while others buy multiples of the gift cards and then ask me to frame them all in one large frame.
I am currently working on a new collection of cards focusing on the beautiful Saudi Arabian doors. I also do family photography, portraits and weddings and would love to do a Saudi Arabian wedding so if anyone knows a couple who are looking for a wedding photographer, I would be there in a flash (no pun intended). I have also done some product photography for Saudi Arts & Crafts and I have just been shortlisted for a photography competition in Australia called Shoot the Architect.
“It is surprisingly easy to take photographs here. Contrary to what I expected, I have had no objections at all. I have only had to ask for permission to use one photograph. That was in Princess Noura University and although it was an architectural shot, they wanted to make sure that I wasn’t taking any photographs of the female students.
I’m not out with an iPhone, I walk around with a big camera and I feel completely comfortable. I tend not to take photographs of people, but rather things like camels, buildings and street scenes. And especially in this country, everything is about social media and Instagram etc. so it hasn’t been an issue. I took a great shot of a guy outside a shop at the Princess Souk. He was 47, had three wives and 12 children and he had five or six of them with him at the time. He was buying them all new thobes and they were very happy to have their photo taken. It was a great photo.
What I do here is easier because there isn’t the competition that there is back home. The quality back home is really amazing and there are so many creative people. It’s a numbers game and my cards would be just another one to add to the list. But here my cards are something different. I never did anything like this before but I have always loved photography and back home I had to pay the mortgage and so I had to continue working but I was bored out of my brain.”
Words of wisdom:
To anyone reading this who has a skill they are considering taking up, Nyree’s advice was powerful. “Just try it. If there is anything you’ve ever wanted to do, take it up. I just thought ‘Well, if I fail, no one back home will know’. And be patient. There were times when I thought that I cannot spend another 100 SAR on a driver going to some dead- end place looking for supplies. But the sense of achievement is wonderful. You have no idea how difficult it was to find square envelopes for my gift cards. Back home there wouldn’t be the challenge, you would get online and just order 500 envelopes. I remember the day the envelopes arrived and I was sobbing and even my husband was nearly crying.
Viewing and purchasing their work:
All Nyree’s greetings cards and photographs are available on her Facebook page, piktureit, by email, or by phone on 058 069 7888. They are also for sale at L’art Pur gallery gift shop on Takhassusi Branch St, Al Olaya. All her images can be viewed on her Instagram page. Or visit her stand at the Ishbilia Night Bazaar on 26 November from 6pm, the Salwa Compound Christmas Bazaar on 4 December or the next Ishbilia or Kingdom coffee mornings. She can also be contacted to discuss portrait or family/group photography. Alma has taught art classes in her own studio and in international schools. She has always painted, taught and exhibited at the same time and is considering teaching here. She does commissions (often portraits) and sells her artwork, and people are welcome to visit her Ishbilia home to view her work. In time, she plans to also sell her work at a Riyadh based art gallery. You can see more about her exhibitions and her previous works at www.almasarac.com and about her art classes at www.artadventure.com.au. Please contact her at email@example.com or on 054 272 7174.