Born 1990 in Washington, DC. Meshal Al-Obaidallah is from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia His works of conceptual art are ever-growing series. And they have been exhibited across the Arabian Gulf region, such as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the UAE, as well as outside the region, such as the UK and the US. He is a winner of the 4th International Emerging Artist Award that took place in Dubai in 2016. Recently, his Shimagh Series, which currently consists of 5 works, was acquired by Greenbox Museum in Amsterdam, as part of the museum's permanent on-display collection.
Inwardly, via his works, he document current issues and affairs of Saudi Arabia—and the Arab world in general—covering a variety topics, such as gender inequalities, regional stereotypes, self-identity & social identity, and the Middle Eastern diaspora.
How would you describe your art style?
Honestly, my works represent the ideas I see around me, whether it was within society or on the streets. I take these ideas and change them until they represent my own perspective.
Kuffiyat Almoqawamah (Resistence)
How do you use art as a tool to educate others about several cases, such as Arab diaspora and inequality?
The idea of my works is not mainly concerned with telling people what’s right and what’s wrong, rather than representing events or ideas in my own style.
Why did you choose the Shimagh (a type of head dress) specifically as a symbol of the Arab culture in your series of artworks titled Shimagh?
I think that the idea came to me as a result of visiting mosques, especially during Friday prayers. When you see shimaghs frequently, you notice how different they are. Some might think that they all look the same,
but when you pay close attention you’ll realize that
each shimagh has its own unique design.
The brand I used at the beginning of my work was Shimagh Albassam for some reason. It took me three months to work on each shimagh, because I worked on a model that’s similar to the actual shimagh. Some might think that it is an actual shimagh ; that’s because I imitated the same design and pattern, then printed it on fabric. It was a really difficult thing to do when I began, and I didn’t expect it to be such a success because I was only doing it as a personal work. I used Shimagh Albassam -as previously mentioned- as a reference, but I eventually changed the design to fit the idea of my work.
Would you share the stories that inspired you to start your work as a series of three?
Firstly, there is the project Shimagh, where I made changes on the design, and each shimagh has its own story. There’s also a project about traffic signs where I
used signs that are used for guidance or indicating diversions ahead and such. Finally, there’s a series about cities, where I basically used different cities and
villages’ names in Saudi Arabia and use it as names for trademarks. The idea of this one isn’t only about offering things other than fashion to shift people’s focus
on, but it’s also about the reality of how people are concerned with appearance, and how they classify people based on their looks.
As a young artist, what do you hope to accomplish through your art?
I don’t hope for anything specific. I used to do my artworks just for my own self, and share it on social media websites, such as Instagram. I’ve never really
thought about participating in art exhibitions before, but I suddenly did. Doing artworks and designs is just a hobby to me, but one day I applied to be a part of an art exhibition and I liked the atmosphere of it, and I’ve been doing that ever since.
You can follow Meshal's works on his website and Instagram account to see more of his works.