Future Visions: An Interview with Abdullah Qandeel

Written & Curated by Jackie Argo


Visionary Saudi Arabian artist Abdullah Qandeel is paving his way into the future one canvas at a time.

While society is quickly changing, he stands amongst the pioneers of the new arts world. Once known for painting the walls of a hotel room—an act he described as celebration for the sale of a piece—Qandeel has not only made a name for himself but has revealed himself to be a truly motivational individual. Hence shining a light into a changing era of creative progress.

As a result reflected in part by the nations high population of youth, Saudi Arabia is experiencing a cultural shift in policy. Furthermore he describes his role as an artist amidst this changing landscape and desires to take risks in pursuit of positive impact. Most noteworthy we explore a glimpse into what bold and energizing artist Abdullah Qandeel calls our greatest resource.

“A shift is going on in the country from conservatism to a liberalness. Little coverage is being placed on the individuals, artists, and creatives.”

How do you see yourself as being a pioneer?

There is a saying that goes, the first bird, receives all the arrows. I decided to be an artist before it was okay. People didn’t understand, but now they have to.


So what are some of those arrows you received? Struggles?

The biggest problem was myself. Once other people saw that I could change and believe in myself—then they could believe in me too.

I think the wrong people are in charge. Why are we listening to people with little experience and knowledge, when we should be listening to creatives? I see this as a catalyst for change—now it’s my turn.

Art is risk. It took art to develop the modern world. Likewise to develop architecture.


“Why is war dominating headlines? Art should be dominating.”

What are your experiences with art in Saudi Arabia?

Saudi Arabia is one of the most exciting countries today. Our most important resource is youth. Fifty percent of the population is under the age of 25. We are the next doers. Certainly the future is going to come from Saudi.

I call it the “slingshot effect”. First of all we’ve been under a restrictive life format. For example, two years ago if I wanted to have lunch with another woman, I wouldn’t have been able to. For the reason that we created small innovations to bypass restrictions but now that the restrictions are lifted, now you have all this excess creativity.

Now the money is being invested in the youth. Creatives—we are the problem solvers. Above all I believe our largest resource is our creativity.

It’s a new time, a new era for Saudi Arabia. The kingdom is about to make strategic moves with its people. We are going to shake up the system. And make it fair for everyone.

Furthermore I’d like Saudi Arabia to have a city that is as exciting as New York, as progressive as LA, as beautiful as Paris, as soulful as London, and I want the city to be the city that every single creative from around the world wants to be at.


How does art influence politics?

I’d like to think my art influences people not politics.

When you’re an artist you tend to think outside the box. Usually when people interact with an artist, they give people different perspectives. Artists give people a different way of viewing the world. And the beauty of the art itself.

The message is more important than the medium.


“We’re very connected to nature, maybe women more—the world was created almost like a canvas by God. Beauty is universal..being the art itself.”

What is your message in your pieces?

Each one is different. The key to relational maintenance is spontaneity. I use my personal experiences and put them in canvas. I’d like to look at my art like a visual diary.

You are what you’re exposed to. So you gotta be like mercury, you gotta be able to flow through what you’re exposed to.

There is something in spontaneity, in the unexpected. And I look at that time as positive, it’s refreshing to be arrested for art. Now I’m onto bigger responsibilities.

The Mona Lisa is one of the most famous paintings because of the mystery. Mystery is power.


Much of this takes a great deal of risk and belief in yourself—where does your courage come from?

I believe I grew into it. I believe my blood plays a big part, my ancestors survived so I am here today. I’d like to think my warrior blood is in me—I’m a survivor.

I’d have to thank my mother and father.


“Today brought to limelight, an era of doing something beautiful—a Muslim doing art.”

What are you focusing on today?

I’m looking inside, I’m closing my eyes, and forgiving myself from the past, throwing out all the rubbish, emptying myself, filling my self with beautiful things and breathing in color.

Have been working on new pieces inspired by feminine energy. Certainly I’ve found my inspiration from my mother.


So you mention feminine energy…

Your mother, your mother, your mother, then your father.

This is a statement of where your connection should be with feminine energy. First of all your mother gets automatic preference over your father. Men do respect women in Saudi Arabia. Now we have broken some of the old chains in place by fear.

I speak to my mother almost every single day of my life—she always reminds me to be gentle.

I love women.


“There is this constant that is the female figure healing the masculine.”

And your visions of the future?

We are in this body temporarily. Our souls leave the body—this is a lease on the body.

Painting reflects the future. Consequently an integral aspect to working as an artist is thinking of the future society world of creatives, this new movement in the arts.

As a painter you can paint the present when you do impressionism because you’re trying to capture the moment where it is in time, or replicate it. Yet with my work its different, it’s my imagination. It doesn’t have any kind of weight. I don’t plan my pieces. Because of this the future is something I can guarantee. I can predict the future as to how I believe it’s going to be like. So I think what’s interesting about the future is that it can be different. People want variety. The one true constant I have in my work is change. Because change is constant.

Therefore I’m influenced by everything I absorb. I absorb data. It’s constantly changing. The longer I live, the more experiences I have and that allows me to create different art.

My aim is to touch as many people positively using the gift that god has given me—it’s what I do with that money that matters. Hence I want to further the roles of creatives within a sustainable foundation. People need to be “smart souls” in understanding and finding the balance between the material and the spiritual.

Neom—This is one of my dreams. 100% self sustainable future city.

Abdullah Qandeel is a Saudi Arabian artist. His work has captured the interest of the Kardashians, Floyd Mayweather, Kanye West, Adrian Grenier, and major business people across the world. Qandeel’s painting, The Enemy Within, was sold for $209,000 by Sotheby’s. His modern art pieces speak to the political and social environment he is surrounded by.



Art curated by FORTH art editors.

  1. June 2, 2018 @ 11:05 pm Sara

    Great article , by a real artist 👌🏽👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼

  2. June 2, 2018 @ 11:22 pm nabil

    Been following you on insta for a while. as an Arab and muslim, we need more people like you. Never stop painting, keep showing your art and spread your message.

  3. June 3, 2018 @ 6:36 am Ahmed

    Thank you for inspiring us and paving the way for all the young Saudi Arabian for generations to come. Keep it up

  4. June 3, 2018 @ 12:07 pm Quratulain Adeel

    Thank you for conducting and sharing interview of Abdullah Qandeel he is such an incredible artist looking forward to see his work in Canadian exhibitions

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