Saudi abstract artist Shalimar Sharbatly is set to showcase her latest work in Jeddah as part of the Kingdom’s 90th National Day celebrations.
The municipality of Jeddah, in cooperation with the artist, has launched the “Draw the Nation” initiative, which will see the art displayed to the public from Sept. 23.
Sharbatly, a pioneer of the “Moving Art” school, is widely known for her style of painting on cars. A custom-designed, hand-painted Porsche 911 and a Formula 1 racing vehicle that she painted, known as “La Torq,” are the most notable of her works.
The Porsche was showcased at the Paris Motor Show, and “La Torq” was unveiled at the 2017 Grand Prix de Monaco. Both vehicles were also exhibited at the Louvre museum in Paris, in the “Moving Art” exhibit in 2017.
For this year’s National Day celebrations, Sharbatly was commissioned to paint four old cars, repurposing them into art to be displayed at the new waterfront and Jeddah’s main squares.
Sharbatly spoke to Arab News about her background in art, the challenges she faced in creating the artworks, and her feelings about being able to represent the Kingdom for the National Day celebrations.
Born to a mother who was also an artist, Sharbatly says that she “opened her eyes to an art studio.”
“My earliest memories are of that studio, the sounds of Fairuz, Abdel Halim (Hafez), and Julio Iglesias, and feeling like I wasn’t like other children,” she said.
With her mother’s support, she was able to nurture her skills from the age of 6, and won her first award at 8. When she was only 16, she had her first show in Cairo in 1988. Fans of her early career include renowned Egyptian painter, Salah Taher, and the poet, Farouk Juwaidah, who attended the show and complimented her work.
She has showcased her work internationally, is recognized as the first Saudi female artist to be commissioned by the government to create artwork, and in 2017 was chosen as a goodwill ambassador for her contributions to humanitarian issues and civil society.
Though Sharbatly finds painting cars to be a challenging experience, she also finds it very rewarding.
“It’s very difficult to paint on to cars. You’re almost at war with the paints, because they tend to dry out very quickly. But I’ve grown accustomed to it after so many years. I used to say that the paints would wound me when I fought with them, but now I have tamed them so that they listen to me,” she said.
“Experience makes you innovative, and innovation makes you creative, and creativity is what makes the world around you easier to mold to your will,” she said.
On the topic of this year’s National Day, Sharbatly said that she felt honored to be participating and giving back to the country in the best way she knew how.
“In these current circumstances, with the coronavirus pandemic happening and our government stepping up to offer treatment to everyone and keep us all safe, our nation needs a lot from us right now. I can tolerate the heat and the difficulty of the work if it means I can contribute to beautifying the country as much as I can,” she said.
She also expressed her gratitude to the mayor of Jeddah, Saleh Al-Turki, for supporting the initiative, and for providing the old cars and vehicles to be turned into artworks.
The initiative will start from Jeddah’s waterfront, where the artworks will be mostly made at the Oia Beach Resort Jeddah and then taken to the waterfront for some finishing touches before being displayed. The second phase of the project will include all cities in the Kingdom, then expanding to the world, where these artworks will be exported to communicate Saudi art to the world.