Nawal Mossalli


{A Contemporary Study of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia}

Nawal Mossalli, a renowned female artist in Saudi Arabia has been exhibiting her works of art since 1981. A self taught artist, Nawal never dreamed she would make a profession out of her love for painting. But with the support of her family and her aggressive talent, Nawal made a name for her self from her very first exhibition and has enjoyed continued success as one of the most prominent female Saudi talents out there today.

The subject of her paintings are traditional, from her faceless Saudi Bedouin women to her vivid landscapes filled with palm trees and mud houses; yet her style is anything, but customary. Nawal’s school of art is truly her own. With her expressionistic fervor, impressionistic brushstrokes, and cubist imagery, Nawal has formed her own contemporary style that is both distinctive and ingenious.

Her style is greatly based on color, a manifestation of culture, heritage, and her drive to set herself apart from others. “I can trace my love of color to traditional Islamic art which employs vivid hues and skilful contrasts, ” reveals Nawal. Simple, intense, yet incredibly vocal; this emphasis on color has allowed Nawal to evolve as an artist and create works that narrate the unique geography of this country.

Her first color phase, “The Red Phase, ”covered the South region of Asir. This phase included her famous Tasbeh(Prayer Beads) and Jalsah (Sitting) paintings.

The reception of these paintings was widely successful and as a result,Nawal felt the pressure to produce asubsequent collection at par with itspredecessor.

It took her seven years, but Nawal finally accomplished it. “The Green Phase,” far exceeded the expectations

of the preceding collection, “I was searching for a better way to depict the palm tree which has become

synonymous with our country.” The green phase included two parts, Janube (South) and Wadi Hanifah

(the Central region of Saudi Arabia).

Her stress on the abundant greenery of the region was a fresh take and a stark contrast to the heated warmth of her red phase. The green hues presented a surreal tranquility that provided a physical transcendence through her fervent emotion and intense color.

Her present phase, “The Brown Phase,” reflects Makkah Al Mokarram, the Western region of Saudi Arabia. Although born in Mecca, Nawal has waited until now to depict her origin.

“Everyone’s instinct is to paint Mecca because it is such a strong and spiritual subject. But I wanted to wait until I found a new perspective to present my birth place,” explains Nawal, “My paintings are my feelings and experiences brushed onto the canvas. ”This is evident in her intimate portrayal of the Harem. More like a personal memoir, Nawal transcends time to take the viewer back to her childhood when the narrow streets of Mecca were a peephole and traditional roshan windows and their interlacing woodwork decorated the sky above. Her paintings, more a study of an Saudi Arabia’s diverse geography and history, embody the beauty of a country that longs for more exposure. “My father was a diplomat, my husband was a diplomat, and in a way, I am a diplomat: Ifeel a sense of responsibility to represent my country through my paintings.”

“My purpose is to provide a map of the Kingdom in a new artistic perspective that shows the characteristic nature of each region.”

Despite the praise and recognition Nawal’s work has garnered, you won’t find any of the numerous awards

and medals she received hanging in her house. It is the paintings themselves that are the symbols of her

achievement, and only they deserve a place on her walls. Nawal believes that “it is the mission of all artists

to express their origin,” an effort that has earned her works a place in exhibitions all over the world, including

London, Rome, Frankfurt, Geneva, Madrid, and Los Angeles. She stresses the importance of Saudi art

and its contribution to society, “Saudis should be proud of their artistic heritage,” she explains.

Locally, Nawal asserts, “The infrastructure to make the public more aware of art and inform them more effectively about galleries and exhibitions needs to be expanded.”


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