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  • Writer's pictureMajid Alhusseini

10 Artists Redefining Saudi Arabia's Cultural Landscape in 2023

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been experiencing a cultural renaissance in recent years, with an increasing number of talented artists emerging onto the global stage. Saudi Arabia's vibrant art scene is attracting attention and recognition from around the world, showcasing the rich cultural heritage and creative spirit of the nation. In this article, we highlight 10 up-and-coming Saudi artists who are poised to make a significant impact in the art world in 2023 and beyond.

HRH Princess Reem Al-Faisal

Reem Al Faisal, hailed as a trailblazer in the realm of Art & Photography in Saudi Arabia, has achieved worldwide recognition for her distinctive artistic style. She adeptly combines her identity and traditional values with a contemporary perspective, offering a fresh vision. Reem believes that in our modern society, we are often conditioned to prioritize the tangible aspects of life, as perceived through our intellect, willpower, and emotions. However, she asserts that there exists a spiritual dimension that finds expression through beauty and creativity. Reem aspires to embody this spiritual essence in her own work and aims to showcase it to others. Rather than following a meticulously planned career path, she identifies herself as an ardent lover of art in general, with a particular affinity for photography.

Gaze By Leen

The artist desires to express her truth, transforming her fantasies into tangible realities. She communicates through her artwork, as words fail to capture the depth of her thoughts and emotions. Each piece she creates is luminous, inviting viewers to delve into the intricate details and uncover the narrative within. From the tender age of 9, she embarked on her artistic journey, perceiving the world from a unique perspective when she first grasped a pencil and brought forth her inaugural creation. Her art serves as a testament to her identity, encapsulating the essence of who she is.

Nujood Al-Otaibi

Nujood Al-Otaibi, a freelance creative artist and designer, has nurtured her artistic talents since a young age. Supported by her father, who is also an artist, she was encouraged to explore drawing as a form of expression. Interestingly, Nujood's journey was influenced by a hearing disability she has had since the age of five. This unique circumstance served to deepen her appreciation for visuals and further fuel her passion for art.

Having embraced the use of hearing aids, Al-Otaibi discovered her inspiration within the realm of hyperrealism. This artistic movement became a focal point for her during her pursuit of a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. Specializing in Digital Arts, the 33-year-old artist ventured beyond hyperrealism, actively exploring various painting styles to broaden her creative horizons.

Saeed Gamhawi

Born in 1972, Saeed Gamhawi is an acclaimed Saudi painter and conceptual artist known for his exploration of cultural heritage and social issues. Gamhawi is an esteemed member of the Fine Artists House in Jeddah and the Saudi Society for Culture. He is also a co-founder of the Tasami Center for Visual Art.

Throughout his career, Gamhawi has held solo exhibitions at prestigious venues like the Jeddah Atelier for Fine Arts in 2003 and 1998. Additionally, he has actively participated in various group shows, including the Misk Art Week in 2019, Desert to Delta at the Art Museum of the University of Memphis from 2017 to 2018, and the Abu Dhabi Art Fair in 2017. In 2016, his work was featured in the Saudi Art Council's 21,39 exhibition titled "Earth and Ever After." Furthermore, his art has been displayed in exhibitions dedicated to contemporary Saudi art in Egypt, Italy, the Netherlands, and Syria, showcasing his global presence and recognition.

Ahaad Al-Amoudi

Ahaad, who was brought up in both England and Saudi Arabia, currently resides and operates in Jeddah. Her artistic endeavors involve exploring themes of history and representation while traversing between these two nations. Ahaad completed her undergraduate studies in Visual Communication at Dar Al Hekma University in Jeddah in 2014 and later obtained a Master's in Print from the Royal College of Art in 2017.

Ahaad's research focuses on the transformation of Saudi Arabia's ethnography, and she employs photography, video, and print installations to offer new interpretations of historical depictions within a changing cultural landscape.

Ahmed Mater

Born in 1979, Ahmed Mater is a notable Saudi artist who initially pursued a career in medicine before transitioning to become a conceptual artist. His artistic practice revolves around documenting and examining the realities of contemporary Saudi Arabia, delving into collective memories to uncover and record unofficial histories.

In 2016, Mater achieved a significant milestone by becoming the first Saudi artist to hold a solo exhibition in the United States. The exhibition, titled "Symbolic Cities: The Work of Ahmed Mater," took place at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. This groundbreaking event propelled Mater's international recognition.

Mater has also showcased his work through solo exhibitions at renowned venues such as the Brooklyn Museum in New York (2019), King Abdullah Economic City (2018), Alserkal Avenue in Dubai (2017), Galleria Continua in San Gimignano (2017), and the Sharjah Art Foundation in Sharjah (2013), among others. His diverse range of exhibitions reflects his prominence and the global reach of his thought-provoking artwork.

Bashaer Hawsawi

Bashaer Hawsawi, born in 1992 in Jeddah, is an artist known for her sculptures and installations that delve into themes of culture, identity, context, history, and belonging. Her artwork often combines found objects and disparate materials, resulting in compositions that initially resemble paintings.

One of Hawsawi's notable works, titled "Cleansing," gained significant attention during the 2022 edition of 21, 39. This piece featured the bristles of a vibrant red broom arranged in geometric patterns against a backdrop of African fabrics, creating a visually captivating display.

In another series called "Qanfager," Hawsawi utilized papyrus, fabric, and thick paint strokes, skillfully interweaving them on the canvas. These compositions, like "Cleansing," pay homage to the past. Papyrus, as a symbol of memory, carries the knowledge of ancient Arab civilizations, particularly the Egyptian pharaonic era. This convergence of cultural idioms makes Hawsawi's work a meeting point between diverse cultural influences.

Hawsawi has emphasized the connection between her personal life and her artwork. This connection is evident not only in her use of everyday objects but also in her exploration of various cultural idioms, ranging from Western abstraction to the distinct forms of Khaleej (Gulf) and African household decor.

Basmah Felemban

Basmah Felemban, born in 1993 in Jeddah, is a multi-talented Saudi artist, curator, researcher, and creative professional. She holds an MFA in Traditional and Islamic Art from The Prince's School of Traditional Arts in London, where her focus was on 12th-14th century Islamic manuscripts. Her specific interest lies in manuscripts that delve into cosmographies, mythical creatures, and cartography.

Drawing from her historical research, Felemban incorporates traditional Arab and Muslim cosmogonies into her own projects, sculptures, and installations. Her artworks shed light on esoteric meanings found in literature, poetry, numerism, and Islamic art. Through her creative practice, she explores the concept of worldbuilding as a means to understand the mysteries in her family history, the role of imagination in reshaping identity, and the ways in which humans bridge gaps in collective memory.

Apart from her artistic endeavors, Felemban is recognized as a curator and researcher of contemporary art movements. In 2011, she established the Saudi Street Art Initiative, which supports the local Jeddah hip-hop community. Through this initiative, Felemban curates exhibitions, programs, and live performances to showcase the work of these artists, facilitating its translation and appreciation within institutional and broader demographic contexts.

Ayman Zedani

Ayman Zedani, born in 1984 near Abha, is a Saudi artist known for his investigative and research-based approach to art. His practice encompasses videos, installations, and immersive environments, all of which explore the future of the Gulf region and encourage viewers to contemplate human and nonhuman relationships.

Zedani's artistic philosophy, which he terms "extended animism," involves a continuous exploration of the structures that shape humanity's connection to nature, particularly within a regional context. In his earlier projects, he focused on investigating organic materials such as stone, clay, and charcoal, presenting them in minimalist displays. Zedani's engagement with living materials remains a prominent aspect of his work, including the incorporation of trees, plants, and bacteria. Recently, he has delved into immersive storytelling that features non-human protagonists, such as parasitic plants in the desert or endangered Arabian humpback whales.

Central to Zedani's artistic practice is the examination of the construction and consumption of nature in the Gulf, as well as the exploration of animist and polytheistic themes prevalent in pre-Islamic Arabia, where a harmonious existence between humans and non-human elements was acknowledged. His approach to art also draws inspiration from new materialist philosophies, such as the "Agency of Matter" and the concept of "Making Kin," which emphasize hybrid spaces created by intertwining the realms of fact and fiction.

Hmoud Al Attawi

Hmoud Alattawi, born in 1986, is a Saudi Arabian artist who initially focused on drawing and painting but later expanded his practice to include sculpture, installation, and photography. His artistic exploration revolves around the myths and narratives of Saudi history, with a particular emphasis on the pivotal role of women in preserving and enriching the country's cultural heritage across generations.

Alattawi's work is informed by his upbringing, education at home, religious background, and the transformative experiences he has encountered. Alattawi's artistic interests encompass delving into the history of his city and nation, probing the realms of individual and collective memory, and exploring the interplay between traditional and new media in storytelling.

His artworks have been showcased extensively throughout the MENASA (Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia) region, including exhibitions at notable institutions such as the Misk Art Institute in Riyadh. He has also participated in prominent art events such as the Diriyah Biennale and La Biennale di Venezia. Alattawi currently resides and works in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

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