Balqis Al Rashed is a Saudi artist whose work we can’t get enough of. Raised in Lebanon, where she studied at the American University of Beirut she gained a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Graphic Design and returned to Saudi in 2009. Since then, Balqis has co-founded the Khaleeji clothing line Qabila Apparel while creating art in a number of disciplines. The popularity of her work online (specifically Instagram) led not only to a residency at the Sharjah Art Foundation where she exhibited her first big scale installation Once, We Fell from the Sky and Landed in Babel but Instagram also took notice and featured her on their official platform. Balqis is also the first international artist in residence at Utah Museum of Contemporary Art.
From photography, video installation, prints, collages, installations and sculpture, it’s hard to really define Balqis’ specific medium of choice or to define her style. In fact, even labeling herself as an artist is something that Balqis finds potentially problematic.
‘I became an artist when people started perceiving me as one,’ Balqis told The Arab Edition when asked when she knew she was or wanted to be an “artist” and everything label entails.
Labeling Balqis or her work is counterproductive. The moment you see her work in a gallery or on her Instagram account, you are mesmerized out of any preconceived notion of how an “artist” should be creating. Take Balqis’ dancing series, A State of Play which you can see on Instagram. Balqis videos herself in a studio setting or in public, dancing using a hula hoop but dressed in full traditional garb which includes a niqab. Although she is completely covered in black, when she dances there is only a suggestion of how her body is moving and the material of the garb itself. Something that traditionally meant to conceal now flows around her in a sensual way. It’s mesmerizing when you combine this with her use of the hula hoop as a tool which is a stark, somewhat ironic contrast to the austere way she is dressed.
These ironic and beautifully curated spaces that Balqis explores in her art, it’s perception of it and of herself, is what we discussed with her in our interview.