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Nawal Mossalli: Rising Recognition Amidst Saudi Arabia's Contemporary Art Movement

Nawal Mossalli, a celebrated female artist from Saudi Arabia, has been showcasing her artwork since the 1980s. Initially self-taught, Mossalli never envisioned pursuing painting as a career. Nonetheless, with the encouragement of her family and her innate talent, she established herself as one of Saudi Arabia's leading female artists, enjoying success. Despite her groundbreaking role as a female painter and publisher in Saudi Arabia, Mossalli remains relatively unknown to younger generations. Nevertheless, her visibility is slowly growing, thanks in part to initiatives like the ongoing collective exhibition "More than Meets the Eye" in AlUla.

Growing up as the daughter of a diplomat allowed Mossalli to travel extensively, enriching her experiences and knowledge. Dr. Effat Farag, curator of "More than Meets the Eye," highlights how Mossalli's exposure to diverse audiences within Saudi Arabia, courtesy of her father's diplomatic status, shaped her unique persona.

Mossalli's artistic style is distinctive and characterized by an engaging viewpoint. She has always been deeply engrossed in portraying nature, especially plants, alongside iconic Saudi structures. Her compositions often feature lush green palm trees dominating the foreground, while buildings recede into the backdrop. Some may categorize Mossalli's work as environmental art, aligning with contemporary trends.

Her paintings depict scenes from Madinah, Makkah, Riyadh, and Diriyah; they usually include mosques, such as the Kaaba and the Prophet's Mosque, which are highly revered. According to Farag, Mossalli's collection of work is an archive of Saudi Arabia's landscapes, which cover the country’s regions. Furthermore, Mossalli explores metaphorical imagery by portraying ladies in traditional clothing, such as the Asir region's female farmers.

Mossalli has showcased her art in numerous exhibitions domestically and internationally, spanning countries like Egypt, the UK, Italy, and Switzerland. She has also authored a book documenting Saudi Arabia's diverse geography, featuring her paintings. Her work serves as a visual diary, capturing cherished memories and personal reflections. Syrian art historian Afif Bahnassi aptly characterizes Mossalli's art as a manifestation of her intimate world.

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