My paintings depict the vivid world of my imagination, says Princess Hayfa bint Abdullah, daughter of late King Abdullah.
Combining the depths of her imagination with her passion for art, a first solo exhibition under the theme “The Starting Point” was organized in Rochan Gallery to display Princess Hayfa’s wide array of art pieces she created in the past 16 years.
The exhibition was inaugurated by Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal and attended by high officials, diplomats and other influential personalities.
Born in 1981 and based in Jeddah, Princess Hayfa graduated from the Art Academy University in San Francisco, where she is also a student of Master of Fine Arts (MFA).
“I have always wanted to showcase my work, but it was very important for me to finish my undergraduate studies before exhibiting. I wanted people to know that it is not only the talent that has built me, but also the hard work of some remarkable teachers and professors. So after recently graduating in 2015, I decided that it was time to take my work and training and put it out there for people to judge and experience,” Princess Hayfa said.
Her paintings portray the nature, air, environment, food and peace that retain a strong connection with the desert. More importantly, the paintings reveal the artist’s “character”, “purity” and “soul”.
Influenced by the surrealist work of Frida Kahlo that sought to channel the unconscious as a means to unlock the power of imagination, Princess Hayfa with her vibrant painting series strived to show the bold and audacious side of Arabic culture. Her exclusive imagination and surrealistic approach made the paintings stand out.
Commenting on the artwork, she said, “I’ve experimented with many schools and techniques, including impressionism, abstract art, still life, etc. Of all the movements I’ve experimented with, the surrealist movement is the one that has spoken most personally to me.”
“As human beings, we are limited by certain realities that give us shape and security. The mind, however, has its own place and no limits. So for whatever reason, I find that surrealist expression taps into my imagination and allows both my brush and my spirit to transcend traditional boundaries and speak in a new language that feels particularly pure and central to my identity,” she added.
Although her paintings include a fair share of the anodyne and twee, they communicate the real zeal and joy at its best. Many of her paintings are a scene of everyday intimacy of real life.
Coming from a land of sand and sun, a Kingdom filled with traditions as old as time, Princess Hayfa vigorously speaks through her paint brush. “Rather than painting the world, I am supposed to see, I reach into the depths of my imagination and I paint what my soul wants,” she said adding, “However, placing great value on convention, custom, and propriety, I seek to recast the world through the use of rich colors, surrealist ideas and metaphor.”
Through her love of art and sophisticated style, she hopes to give inspiration and voice to the hidden side of every individual.
The appearance of a truly new idea in art has been always valuable, but only when it aims at fulfilling itself in an accomplished piece of work. Princess Hayfa could achieve a progressive artistic career through her passion and by overcoming all the challenges. Her paintings reflected the consistency of colors in a distinctive smooth way along with her culture.
“Every artist undergoes several challenges and so did I. Learning to paint well within the various schools of art was one of them and also to experiment new techniques was difficult as the hand acts awkward and takes countless hours to achieve fluidity with the form,” Princess Hayfa said, adding, “Some of my earlier paintings almost make me laugh when I think how little I knew or how awkward I handled the canvas or the paints.”
However, being hard working and holding tight to her inspiration and the passion to perfecting forms, has helped her to successfully attain all this progress.
In Princess Hayfa’s successful journey, many people have been instrumental — Mona Al-Kasabi, board president of the Saudi Center for Fine Arts, and her mentors Naomi Greschke and Malak Tabsh, who introduced her to the world of colors and helped her to turn into a professional.
“My life is complicated. I am a mother of three children and my only option to study was to remain in Saudi Arabia and to be trained here. So, I took a course with Saudi artist Mona Al-Kasabi in 2000, who was also the first person to spark the interest in me. I got hooked, but then my next challenge was to find a teacher who could work with me every day.”
“In 2006, my husband found an Australian artist, Naomi Greschke; he hired her to come to Saudi Arabia and teach me for a year. After her, I had a Lebanese artist, Malak Tabsh to train me.”
But soon she realized that if she wanted to truly reach her potential, she needs to find a school where scores of professors could bring out the best in her. With the help of an art teacher, Melinda Placko, Princess Hayfa was able to find the Art Academy in San Francisco that offers an online undergraduate program.
“The journey of an artist requires enthusiasm and passion in order to transform imagination and thoughts into art. Princess Hayfa absorbs her culture, landmarks and society, and represents it in her artwork, which will hopefully spread it all over the world,” said Malak Tabsh, mentor of the Princess.
“Her love for art has developed in such a way that her nights became days, her thoughts became paints and her passion for art became her life. Being so determined has led to an amazing path of creativity and discoveries and it is well deserved to show the world Princess Hayfa’s journey till date,” she added.
This is one-of-a-kind show on an epic scale. The vivid paintings showcased are realistic and surrealistic, such as the oil-on-canvas painting of a girl embracing the late King Abdullah, titled “Warm Hug”, or a collage, titled “From Venice” that illustrates the growth of maturity in her work.
Although the show will be momentous or a footnote in the future history of art, one thing is almost certain, visitors are likely to remember the show by saying “I was there”.
“As a Saudi, I wanted my first exhibition to be in the Kingdom and in Jeddah because it has a thriving art community. I chose Rochan Gallery because it has a prominent reputation and it is one of the only galleries in Jeddah that is large enough to hold my collection of 235 paintings,” said Princess Hayfa.
After her first solo show in the Kingdom, Princess Hayfa will mark her international debut in the renowned New York gallery, Stella Holm, with a highly anticipated exhibition of her 25 works that will be on view from April 21 to May 27, 2016.
Besides, the proceeds of the exhibition earned from her artistic endeavors will go to The National Home Health Care Foundation, which is dedicated to developing home health care services, in addition to upgrading social and health awareness in Saudi society along with other related philanthropic causes.
Princess Hayfa has a word for aspiring artists. “Work hard. Follow your passions and take yourself seriously. Even if people around you don’t agree with your work or your dreams, you must stay true to yourself and to your vision. Also, get a degree as having it will help you to take yourself more seriously and it gives you a certain type of validity and cements a place for you in the world.”