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Going global with bold art

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A trailblazing artist with a global presence and a captivating artistic expression, Ghadir Hafez, has ventured across continents for more than two decades, leaving her mark in numerous countries. With her bold compositions and thought-provoking allure, Ghadir has made waves as the first Saudi female artist to exhibit her work in multiple international destinations. From the US to Italy, Kosovo to Egypt, her artistic journey has been filled with remarkable achievements and inspiring experiences.

“I adore art and the messages that art carries,” Ghadir told Bahrain This Week.

“One of my goals through art was to discuss with the world humanity and the advancement of the human self. It conveys the opposite of its meaning. I am adept at removing color from its meaning to its opposite meaning, and this is what distinguished the style of my paintings in my beginnings. After that, I developed fantasy works, and my style became inclined towards reality and imagination. Colours and their meaning reversals in my paintings still distinguish my works, and in the last period, because I am originally a potter, I returned to stereoscopic paintings, which give the work more strength and attraction. But here I used black and white colour to tell the story.”

Ghadir hosted her first international art exhibition in 2004 in Vienna, Austria, and from there began to receive international artistic invitations. She subsequently participated in Morocco, Egypt, and Canada. She was the first Saudi artist to represent the Kingdom in Kosovo, Albania, Macedonia, China, and Cyprus.

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Ghadir, who incorporates aesthetic and intellectual appeal into her paintings, explained that her works describe a person, in reality or through a fantasy. Her works speak about humanity and people, and how people can live on the earth with humanity, love, and peace.

“I always use colour to reflect its meanings in the artwork. Additionally, I always present the idea of the work in the reality of life, but in a way that enigmatically makes the recipient look at the work to extract the meaning. The ambiguity of the work increases attention. It has multiple meanings, and the interpretation of the work by the viewers strengthens and increases its beauty. A little reality and a lot of imagination complete the meaning.”

While showcasing her work internationally, Ghadir stays connected to the local art scene, which she says is ‘not easy’, adding that success demands hard work. “I set a work plan at the beginning of every year and follow it with a few changes if needed. When I participate internationally more than once a year, I focus on the work of my personal centre and on training my students. Personal exhibitions require effort and time, and it takes four years to get ready for an exhibition. The activity of my institute and training makes me present in the kingdom, while my international exhibitions keep me on the global scene.” Fine arts as a culture lacking in the kingdom, as well as the absence of women in the scene, were the challenges that Ghadir faced in the beginning.

“But persistence, adherence to my goals, delivering my message through my paintings, and my trust in God helped me with all these challenges. The presence of Saudi women in the art scene was not popular in Saudi society previously. Also, the idea of the importance of art and its practise in life did not previously exist in the culture of Saudi society. This was limiting my work, and I felt that I was doing a lot to convince the world of the importance of plastic art and its impact on society.”

Ghadir said she showcased Saudi Arabia’s culture through international works, emphasising religion’s role in human protection. She added that accredited bodies invited her based on impact and intellectual presence, not as sponsored posts. She spoke of particular experiences and moments in her life that, she said, had significant impacts on her as an artist. “The first exhibition I held in Vienna was about women. It received a wonderful reception from many, and visitors came to see my works from outside Vienna. This was because I am a woman and a Saudi artist, and this made me very happy. The acquisition of my works in the Cam Museum in Italy also played a role in establishing my name in the art world, as did the acquisition of my works in the Jhonemjon Museum in Albania and the Realty Galleries Hall in Vienna. With all these, I am sure that my artistic message has definitely left a mark.”

She urged aspiring artists to insist on their work and their skills and not to copy or imitate other works. “Each artist should have a mark that distinguishes him from the others and an idea that elevates his art and represents him personally. I always say that if you like my art, it is yours, and if you do not like it, leave it to others. I do not paint to please the recipient, but I paint to spread a humanitarian message.”

Planting the message of peace and humanity through her paintings around the world is Ghadir’s ultimate goal. Currently, she is preparing for a new exhibition, with the hope of presenting something special at both international exhibitions and events across the Gulf.

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