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- Words by Rym Tina Ghazal
“What do you see?”
Deep, exquisite and philosophical, Tagreed Al Bagshi’s art challenges us to understand her messages that reflect her inner most thoughts as it captures the kaleidoscopic pulse of the moments around her.
“There is no such thing as typical Saudi art, or a typical Saudi woman, and that is what I hope my art does, challenge stereotypes and misconceptions,” Tagreed told Ithraeyat in an exclusive interview. From Al Ahsa, in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, the award winning artist is famous for her unique sculptural portraits, with their long necks, elongated faces and simplified yet deep features.
“I wanted to create a special style, a style that whoever sees it, will know, it is by Tagreed Al Bagshi.” Strong yet delicate, traditional yet contemporary, Tagreed’s art manages to balance as it evolves. For over 20 years, she has been documenting her country’s multi-faceted story through her art pieces; each with a philosophical note, each “a letter” to the public.
“Every piece is a personal letter I created with my brushes to tell a special story, sometimes it is a private story, sometimes it is a story my community is going through, and sometimes it is a global story and my reaction to it,” she said.
Her artistic journey has been a life-long love affair with art and colors that started since her childhood. Tagreed loved to draw and paint, even if her creations often left a colorful “mess” on the house’s carpets.
“I had a very supportive family and my father, may he rest in peace, always provided me with whatever colors and materials I needed. He was a big reader, and in our home, we had a whole room dedicated to books,” she recalled. “I had to climb the bookshelves to get a book I liked. We come from a cultural intellectual family that supports creativity and uniqueness.” Pausing, she fondly remembered how her classmates would ask her to complete their “art homework” for them.
“It didn’t seem to matter to the teacher that most of the artwork handed in, had the same style,” she laughed. Throughout her artist career, there has been a particular hero in each of her pieces: women.
“I like to portray women, their strength in their femininity. In particular Saudi women and how they excel in whatever place they are in. The challenges and the obstacles we all faced just made us all stronger.” As a founding member of the Saudi Society for Fine Arts, she continues to be an active member of the Saudi arts and culture scene exhibiting across the kingdom and aboard.
Besides the human stories they tell, Tagreed’s creations are also often peppered with symbols from nature.
“I am an optimist, a humanist, and I always hope for the best,”she said. “I love nature and I am inspired by its resilience and its beauty. Each of my pieces have messages of hope, captured delicately by the doves and the flowers.” The philosopher, poet and historian is a mother to four – two boys and two girls. She is grateful for the pause the current crisis, the coronavirus pandemic— known as COVID-19—has brought on: A much overdue break from the “rush rush” of everyday life.
“My four sisters and I were joking that we wish we lived in one building, so we could all see each other all the time. Our family gatherings are part of our culture, part of our soul, and we have stopped visiting our parents as a precaution for them. This is a strange time, like a movie, and I am hopeful it will end soon.”
“Isolation” issue’s themed-guest artist, Tagreed shared this art piece, titled “That happened in the age of Corona,” that was completed in over a month, with the final brush strokes dabbled just a few days ago. Tagreed is debuting this powerful piece on Ithraeyat magazine. She said she was inspired by the Spanish artist Pablo Picasso’s ‘Guernica’, a large 1937 anti-war oil painting on canvas commenting on the Spanish Civil War. “I wanted to capture everything this crisis is doing to us. It is challenging us, it is taking lives, it is making us wash our hands until they are raw. The doctors are on the frontline, like soldiers, and we all keep our hands away from our faces, up. But it is not able to destroy us, and it can’t take our hopes and our future. There are flowers, there are birds, there are children, and there are moments of birth, and life will go on. There are always new chances,”said Tagreed.
Another of her art featured in Ithraeyat is “A time for the self…” Peaceful, and soft, this piece is about the importance of self-reflection. “It is important to sit with oneself. Before the crisis, we were rushing from one thing to the other, and even rushing away from ourselves. Now we are being re-introduced to ourselves and re-introduced to each other. Now, we finally have time,” said Tagreed.
One of Tagreed’s most recognized artistic creations, the doves and the long faces. Called “Homage to nature…” Tagreed explained that “each dove is carrying a letter to nature from us, and we are sending a letter back to nature. A letter of thank you to nature, the source of everything, and the source of peace and beauty. I grew up around palm trees, and feel a great connection to mother nature.
With plans later this year to publish a book with all of her art, Tagreed until then, will continue to reflect, brush and create unique pieces that tell many stories. Lastly, her message to her fans and aspiring artists? “Whatever you do, do it from the heart as only then it touches other hearts.”