Painter Shadi Al-Atallah examines gender, sexuality, racial identity and mental health in their eloquent works

Ruby Boddington, It's Nice That, June 23, 2020

The Saudi Arabia-born, London-based artist tells us about their practice in which self portraits are made of “everything and everyone around” them.


For fine artist Shadi Al-Atallah, the creative industries were a foreign entity while growing up in Saudi Arabia. Selectively mute during childhood, however, painting presented itself as a means of escape and form of communication; “I found freedom in the auditory silence and visual noise,” they recall. After studying a BA in illustration at Camberwell College of Art, Shadi lost their way somewhat and “forgot how to paint.” A “horrible year” which involved a psychiatric admission led them to discover the medium once again, however, and Shadi “began constructing versions of myself in the form of self-portraiture made up of images of everything and everyone around me.” Shadi’s connection to painting has therefore always been deeply personal, one that's intertwined with self-expression and self-care.