Nadia Waheed Saudi Arabia, b. 1992


Nadia Waheed’s work is both allegorical and autobiographical at once. Her large-scale figurative paintings seamlessly reference both her own lived experience as well as broader themes of womanhood, cultural trauma, and the desire for selfhood unfettered by conventions, expectations, and obligations. The female subjects, often self-portraits, in her work clearly bear the weight of the, oftentimes contradictory, cultural pressures that fall on women.  They also demonstrate a quiet interiority or interrelationships with other women that gesture towards the space for a liberated self unbeholden to social norms and compulsions. Her experience of the upheavals of the pandemic resulted in her work turning even more determinedly to questions of interiority, spirituality, and the search for harmony amidst the clamour of neoliberal modernity. From explorations of nothingness that is the Buddhist nirvānā to the pursuit of balance between the material and spiritual concerns, her art represents women yearning for and discovering clarity and peace. Detachment is a recurring theme in Waheed’s work, symbolised by female figures that float, drift, and are unmoored from their surroundings. Yet, these figures are never fully free of worldly concerns - while Waheed obscures normative markers of racial and cultural identity, such as skin tone, the dupattas (the shawl women wear over their head and shoulders), mehndi, and braided hair announce their South Asian identity. It is this dance between the individual and the social her art captures with expressive grace.


The multiplicity to Nadia Waheed’s (b. 1992, Al Khobar, Eastern Province, Saudi Arabia) art reflects the various locations of her upbringing, from her birth in Saudi Arabia to Pakistani parents to her experience living in France, Egypt, Pakistan, and finally the United States. Having gained her BFA in Painting and Drawing at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, in Chicago, USA, she now lives and works in Austin, Texas.


Waheed has several solo exhibitions to her name, such as in Mindy Solomon Gallery in Miami, USA and BEERS in London, UK, among others. A number of group exhibitions have incorporated her work, most recently in the Jeffrey Deitch Gallery, Lyles and King, and Arsenal Contemporary in New York, USA, Hashimoto Contemporary in San Francisco, USA, and Patel Gallery in Toronto, Canada. She has been featured in Create Magazine, Artnet, Juxtapoz, and Manifesto XXI, and in the 2020 New Art Dealers Alliance (NADA) Fair.

Anxiety Drawing II, 2021