Laila al-Jindan: "Art and culture are experiencing their best moment in Saudi Arabia"

The Saudi artist talks to Atalayar about the growing art scene in the Kingdom

 -   Laila al-Jindan

Saudi Arabia is undergoing profound changes that affect all aspects of life. The Crown Prince has stated on a number of occasions that his aim is to modernise his country, to move away from dependence on oil and to implement measures and projects that will make Saudi Arabia an attractive country for tourists. These measures have already begun to take effect. Atalayar has followed the trajectory of several young Saudi artists who are the best example that change is already here and that modernising measures and projects are already bearing fruit. Saudi Arabia is undergoing a real transformation that Saudis are feeling and living. Saudi youth are a key pillar of this transformation. Laila al-Jindan is an example of this, a Saudi artist who has experienced first-hand the changes her country has undergone, and her works, which she was exhibiting in Brussels these days, are the example and proof that change is already here.  

Who is Laila al-Jindan? 

Laila al-Jindan is a Saudi artist; I have a very special relationship with art and I have been aware of this since I was a child, especially with music and drawing, my two great weaknesses. Since I was a child, I used to take piano lessons and spend my free time drawing, which I enjoyed very much. Although I liked plastic arts and drawing, I couldn't devote myself to it, which was my true vocation and what I really liked. At that time it was not a discipline that enjoyed a lot of social support and this made me think about continuing my studies in computer science at university, and I devoted myself to art much later. 

Art has always been my constant and favourite refuge and no matter how many times we are apart and no matter how many times our daily lives take us away from each other, we always end up having a date and we always end up meeting again.   

As talent is something that usually accompanies us throughout our lives, I have wanted to strengthen and polish my artistic talent since I am conscious and I have trained for it, I have a diploma in plastic arts and I have done several courses to improve my skills and my creativity. 


How did you start your career? 

As I knew I had a talent for drawing and it was something I liked, in my early days I used to leaf through the magazines at home looking for works of art that I could redraw and I did it with quite simple and rudimentary materials. But I always liked the result and I always wanted to draw again. 

In my early days my father had a huge influence on me. He encouraged me to keep improving every day, especially with piano lessons, because he played the piano and the lute. Also, the fact that my father was a diplomat has had a lot of influence on my career, during our travels and our stays in other countries, my father made sure that my brothers and I had the possibility to visit art and history museums and I enjoyed it and took every opportunity to discover new works and new artists. 

I think this has helped me to open my horizons and feed my artistic imagination. On these trips I had the opportunity to meet many painters, but the Austrian painter Gustav Klimt and the French painter Richard Burlet were the ones who influenced me the most and this can even be seen in my works. 

My mother also had a great influence on my career and my way of drawing, I remember watching her drawing and designing women's fashion sketches that she made and which ended up in beautiful dresses. This undoubtedly explains why in many of my works you can see the presence of Saudi women's clothing. In many of my works I try to reflect and capture the Saudi culture. In many of my works I highlight the traditional female dress in a modern and lively way. 


What themes do you address in your work, and what is the message you try to convey and highlight in your artwork? 

In many of my works I give visibility to women by showing their beauty, feelings and inner potential and I accompany this with traditional elements. I believe that women are a fundamental part of society. In most of my works, I try to show the strength of women, their firmness and their condition. While in some works you can find a crowned woman, in others I try to reflect the feelings of weakness, doubt and internal dialogue through which she tries as a woman to be noticed and to reaffirm her place in society. 

I also dealt with the theme of the desert in my paintings, giving it prominence and highlighting its beauty, because it is a place characterised by calm, tranquillity, meditation and beauty. 

In my paintings you can notice the contrast between the beautiful faces and the range of pure and cheerful colours where you can quickly realise the courage and boldness with which the bright colours are used in a harmonious and beautiful way. The collage and the golden paper in my works are two elements with an abundant presence because they give dimension and depth to my works.


How is the art scene and especially painting in Saudi Arabia? 

We are witnessing an accelerated artistic movement, and there is a remarkable interest and an increasingly palpable social awareness that countries are moving forward with their artists, creators and intellectuals, and we are experiencing this in Saudi Arabia now more than ever, and obviously all this has had a positive impact on the visual arts in our country, especially after the implementation of Vision 2030 which was a milestone for art and culture in Saudi Arabia. Now culture and art have the support of King Salman bin Abdulaziz and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and this gives us all the support we need to move forward. 

This is not to say that there were no artists in Saudi Arabia who achieved great success and came to prominence. You have to bear in mind that Saudi Arabia has a rich history even from an artistic point of view and especially in terms of Islamic art. But the difference now is the clear and explicit institutional and governmental support for art. 

We also see that there is a strong presence of female artists, which makes the art scene we encounter a reflection of the reality and the plurality and diversity that characterises Saudi culture. We also note the diversity of schools, from impressionism to abstraction and other schools, as well as the emergence of many new artists and the proliferation of exhibitions representing various schools and contemporary artistic currents.


Saudi Arabia is undergoing major changes in all aspects. What changes have taken place on an artistic level? 

Saudi Arabia is experiencing an unprecedented artistic and cultural boom, thanks to Vision 2030, which is committed to culture and art, which is why we are discovering a lot of talent that was previously relegated to the background or was simply expressed in a timid manner and in limited and restricted spaces and spheres, or appeared timidly on rare occasions. 

The names of visual artists were few and far between and could be counted on the fingers of one hand, whereas now artists have multiplied and we can speak of thousands of artists who have appeared. The artistic culture in Saudi society has improved substantially, and at the same time the rich and middle class appreciate art more and the wealthy are spending more and more money to invest in works of art. 

On the other hand, the Saudi Ministry of Culture has made a great effort to reach out to artists, creators and intellectuals in order to support them and generate a real and lasting artistic and cultural movement in the country. 

We are at the beginning of the road and we know that there is still room to grow as we need to have specialised fine arts academies and we need more spaces where we can exhibit and make our work visible because this movement has led to a growing interest in the arts and I can say that even the number of galleries is falling short of the boom in artistic works.


What role can the Saudi artist play during this period of profound change in the country? 

Saudi artists have shown that reaching an audience beyond their country's borders is not difficult, especially given the quality of their work. The quality of the work produced by Saudi artists is such that they have nothing to envy from the most prestigious international artists, which is why it is normal to see works by Saudi artists exhibited in international museums. Saudi artists are called upon to reflect the diversity and richness of their culture in a universal language that everyone understands. It should be remembered that the Saudi natural landscape is immensely rich, and the culture offers endless possibilities and opportunities for the proliferation of age-old folk traditions and customs.    


How do you see the future of art in Saudi Arabia? 

Art is experiencing unprecedented support at the highest level. This support is channelled through the Ministry of Culture and we are witnessing a proliferation of culture like never before. I can say that culture and art are experiencing their best moment in Saudi Arabia: cultural initiatives and artistic projects and associations dedicated to promoting art and supporting artists. With this as a basis, we can expect a prosperous future for art and culture in Saudi Arabia, I am very optimistic that the near future will witness many projects that would help us improve as artists. 

You have participated in art exhibitions in several European countries, have you ever participated in an exhibition in Spain? 

Yes, I have participated in exhibitions in several European countries such as Belgium and Great Britain, but in Spain I haven't had that opportunity yet and I hope to participate one day.