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RIYADH: Artist Mishal Al-Shoaibi, 16, who has visual challenges, has produced a series of 50 abstract paintings that has seen him labeled the “Saudi Picasso” by local creatives.

Al-Shoaibi’s solo exhibition titled “The Seeing Eye” is being held at Ahlam Gallery in the capital.

The budding artist has a sensory processing disorder making it difficult for him to see objects up close and is the reason for him wearing quite thick spectacles.

He is currently a grade nine student at Beacon School in Bahrain for young people with learning difficulties.

In recognition of his work, Al-Shoaibi was appointed on Dec. 20 as an ambassador for the Children with Disability Association by the organization’s chairman Prince Sultan bin Salman.

A portion of the proceeds from the sale of his work will benefit the association’s children’s drawing program.

He began drawing and painting at the age of 9 and has now become a prolific artist.

Amazed by his creativity, Al-Shoaibi’s aunt, artist Shaden Al-Tuwaijri took him under her wing.

“I have never influenced Mishal at all. He has a style of his own that has developed a lot since his first solo. All I do is guide him in mixing the colors, cleaning his brushes to keep the colors clean on the canvas.”

She describes her nephew as “absolutely talented” and that he never fails to surprise her with his talent every time he starts a new painting. 

When we met with Mishal and learned about his creative practices and his desire to exhibit his latest collection of artworks, we felt it is important to support him as a talented emerging artist.

Ahlam Alshedoukhy, Ahlam Gallery founder

“Mishal is artistic in every way … he has a great ear for music … he has a unique sense of style … very inquisitive when it comes to art … he likes to visit art galleries and museums wherever he goes.”

To develop his craft, Al-Tuwaijri said she gave him a challenge to create around 40 artworks in 30 days for a solo exhibition, which he has now done with 50.

Al-Shoaibi said: “What inspires me to do my artwork is the eyes because I wear glasses, and I want the world to see eyes without them (glasses). I think it’s the most important part of the body.”

His creative process is a form of therapy. “Anytime I do art, it makes me feel relaxed and in my own place.”

His mother, Noura Al-Tuwaijri, says she is proud of his dedication. “He’s very persistent and highly motivated when it comes to painting. He believes in himself and fights against all odds. He finds his release in art and that makes him a more mature person.

“Abstract art is his thing. Reactions from renowned Saudi artists have been extremely positive with artists naming him the ‘Saudi Picasso of this age.’ And all commented on how his paintings are way above his age in maturity.”

The founder of Ahlam Gallery, Dr. Ahlam Alshedoukhy, said: “At only 16 years old he is the youngest artist to have had a solo exhibition at Ahlam Gallery. When we met with Mishal and learned about his creative practices and his desire to exhibit his latest collection of artworks, we felt it is important to support him as a talented emerging artist.”

Al-Shoaibi’s exhibition at the gallery was initially set to end on Dec. 21 but was extended to Dec. 28 because of high demand.

“Mishal’s exhibition ‘The Seeing Eye’ was a great success for many reasons. This collection was built over the past three years and is a beautiful display of the artist’s personality and character. Listening to Mishal speak about his sources of inspiration showed his passion and love of his art. He has a story to tell for nearly each artwork,” Alshedoukhy added.

She noted that the quality of Al-Shoaibi’s “artwork, which is focused on portraits of himself or people in his life, is quite high … the subject matters are presented in a unique style and full of pure emotions.”

Ahlam Gallery is a commercial entity committed to engaging with local and international artists.

To explore Al-Shoaibi’s artwork, visit his Instagram @artbigmish.

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