Saudi art is booming! Saudi Arabia has a long reputation for conservative social values but the country’s art scene has flourished and is now pushing the boundaries of long-held taboos. Meet one of these aspiring Saudi artists: Fida Al-Hussan. She is a mixed media artist who loves to work with popular images and colour. A Q&A with the person behind Fida Art.
Tell me more about yourself.
“I found myself in art when I was a little girl, when my interest in art and drawing was always my first priority. In middle school I found myself more in Photoshop when it first came around and it changed the way I think about art. I draw what is in my mind and the way I feel, and then I mix this with digital art to reach viewers in the best way.”
What project are you working on now?
“It’s a project with an artist called Nora who makes chairs in a smart and innovative way. Then we decided to add my art to the canvas and wood. You can see some of the work on Instagram.”
What inspires you?
“Human feelings and the tremendous negative energy that they carry. All these emotions make me want to draw so I can express my thoughts about them. If we work on ourselves and try to improve the way we judge others, that is the biggest victory we can achieve as an individual. Anger, love, selfishness and harassment, all those characteristics inspire me to draw more.”
Is there an element of art you enjoy working with most?
“Colours and colourful spirit are all I need.”
What came first for you: your desire to be an artist or your knowledge of the materials you work with?
“I always love to gain more knowledge about art and the way I can translate my thoughts into drawings so I would say my desire to be an artist came first. I found my happiness in art and respect for others.”
You use a lot of colour and popular images. Why?
“I do not have a specific reason, I just start drawing with what I feel and what I want until I feel that I gave the art work all I have in me. People’s portraits capture my thoughts most. The white paper compels me to draw on them.”
What do you want to tell through your work?
“I always feel jealous of the life of people in the old days, in the 1960s and the 70s where I see my dad’s and mom’s personal pictures with those special colours that belong to their generation. In my art I have the colour of my generation and I try to capture the best of it so that our kids and the next generation can see and feel the colours of our time.”
The images flirt with traditional (abaya and niqab) and (American) popular images. Why did you choose this contrast?
“My works are not only American, they’re from all over the world. The reason why I include the abaya and niqab in my art is that I wear them, and the women around me wear them, and we are proud of it. Also, I am trying to explain to people around me and the women who wear them that we are the same. The things that make us different are the languages we speak, the clothes we wear, and the religions we believe in. Media suggest that there is something sad in Arab or Saudi women wearing the abaya and niqab. I do not find in my life any sadness and I see myself as similar to that model in her freedom to show her body but I have my own freedom and that is the beautiful story that I want to tell everyone.”
What has your work to offer to Saudi society?
“I do not like the sad and violent stories that are there in every society. When I read the news or watch TV I see lots of innocent women around the world who are treated violently. I do not speak or draw only about my society. My drawings are about that particular person who is suffering somewhere in the world. So I am trying to offer it to that specific human being.”
How do the Saudi people react to your work?
“Most people around me who have seen my work are the people who want me to do more and bring happiness to me. Some people disagree with me thinking that I bring down the abaya and niqab dress code, but that’s the way I express my feelings, and they might need more time to understand where I am coming from.”
What is the art scene like in Saudi Arabia at the moment?
“The art here is becoming more popular than ever, especially in schools and universities, and other places are adopting it more and more.”
Have you ever been or felt censored?
“Yes. But what makes me nervous and puts a lot of pressure on me is knowing that people care about my art, and the feeling that I need to do more for them.”
What memorable responses did you get for your work?
“The many reactions that had warm feelings and all those from women of different ages who are proud of me.”
In what ways do you stretch yourself to make your work grow?
“I believe in expressing the same energy over and over again, and I never want the feeling of being famous to take this kind of energy and inspiration away. I always tell myself that money and being famous are temporary.”
What are your goals as an artist?
“I try to show the world that humans and their feelings can do a lot. It needs time and improvement to get to the top.”
Is there a work you are most proud of?
“Every work of art has its own story. The Burqa & Newspaper tells the story of those who are watching news channels all the time, sitting in front of their TV sets thinking that’s what is going to save them. By doing that they are becoming victims of those channels that make them feel unsafe in their own homes.”
How do you know when a work is finished?
“When I feel happy and satisfied watching it.”
What does the future look like for you?
“I believe the future brings more freedom, bigger thoughts and the ability to draw those crazy things that I have in my mind.”
© Fida Art
This post is also available in: Dutch