Khaleeji Art Museum

Jalal Luqman: A Pioneer in the UAE’s Art Scene

Meet the UAE’s first digital artist.

By Alanood Al Wahaibi

Emirati artist Jalal Luqman. Image by Jacqueline V. Belizario for the Khaleeji Art Museum.

Inquiring about the creative process of artists is always fascinating. Jalal Luqman is an Abu Dhabi-based artist whose art journey has spanned over 33 years. He has been at the forefront of the art scene. With his groundbreaking work, which includes mixed media, sculpture and installation, he has established himself as a significant artist not only in the UAE, but also internationally. He has exhibited his work in various countries including the UK, US, Japan and the Czech Republic. In 1996, Luqman introduced digital art to the UAE, becoming a pioneer by doing so. His contribution goes beyond producing art, but also to becoming an advocate for the development of other artists in the UAE. He has also set up various initiatives to promote art in the country. 

When it comes to his art, Luqman derives inspiration from his surroundings, whether its people, sounds, smells, or the energy in the room to create unique and vibrant works of art.  His surroundings play a vital role in his art’s creative process, and he draws from his environment to create evocative and meaningful pieces. 

We had the opportunity to ask him about his art journey, and the collection of works that he is presenting as part of Khaleeji Art Museum’s Museum in the Sky Volume II.  Museum in the Sky, which is now available to watch through Emirates’ in-flight entertainment, Ice, is part of the Khaleeji Art Museum’s continuous efforts to showcase the art of the region in innovative ways, and build strong cultural bridges through art. In its latest volume, five Gulf artists –Jalal Luqman, Sumayyah Alsuwaidi, Maitha Hamdan, Ishaq Madan and Mohammed Al Attar– showcase three of their most memorable works to millions of passengers around the world through their own galleries in the sky. Luqman’s long lasting passion for art is evident, and in this interview he shares his insights into the creative process and the evolution of his work over the years.This interview was edited for length and clarity.

Why art? Why not another medium of expression?

JL: Who said only art? I love creating, whether through art, poetry, filmmaking or writing fantasy. I am a pure right hemisphere person, my imagination is always at 1,000,000mph. However, I am more known for my art because of my art exhibitions, talks and public appearances on the subject. Art had to take the forefront of my creativity based purely on financial scale. I was able to make a living as an artist much faster than as an Arab who writes fantasy in English.

Arnab Wa Yakul Laham (A Rabbit That Eats Meat) is currently showing on Museum in the Sky Volume II. Image courtesy of Jalal Luqman.

Can you walk me through your process, from an inspiration to creating an artwork to a finished piece?

JL: I am sensitive to everything that surrounds me, from people, to sounds to  smells to  the energy in the room. Sometimes, I would hear something on the news, on social media or experience something first hand. It will sit and brew  in my head for a while, whether it’s for minutes, hours, months or years. Later on, it goes through this process through which I convert these experiences and emotions into visuals which would translate into material. I then start to sketch the artwork, and at this stage, I have already made the division if it is going to be a flat artwork form, or a sculpture. A flat artwork will be executed either using traditional materials, oils, acrylics, canvas, while digital art includes 3D, animated or still art. The artwork slowly starts to have a voice, and starts to demand what colors it wants, materials to use, until it is complete. 

How has your style or approach to art evolved over time? Has there been a key influence on its evolution?

JL: My work goes through many levels of maturity every few years. I hate stagnation; therefore, I am in a constant strive to learn new methods and techniques. 

How do you ensure the message behind the work is shared to an international audience, especially when it comes to works such as Arnab Wa Yakul Laham (A Rabbit That Eats Meat), which you share in Museum in the Sky Volume II and which is based on an Arabic saying, for example?

JL: In my work, I always look at the state of humanity or the state of humans. We are all humans with the same ingredients. Other than a few cultural, racial and religious influences, we all share the same emotions. That being said, you have to know that I do not guide the viewer to see exactly what I see. When a person stands in front of an artwork, a dialogue starts, between the artwork and the viewer, this dialogue is unique to each viewer. A Rabbit That Eats Meat is an Arabic proverb, I agree, but we all know what a person with an inflated sense of themselves looks like. Moreover, we all know that rabbits don’t eat meat, unless they want us to think they are a lion. 

So much of your work, such as Fingerprint Man, which is also showing in Museum in the Sky Volume II, is based on your own experience or messages you are trying to convey. How do you balance between your experience and the viewers’ perspective of your artwork?

JL: I do not attempt to make that balance at all; I create the work, I materialise the feelings and the emotions into my creations, the viewer experiences it in whatever way they do.

Fingerprint Man is currently showing on Museum in the Sky Volume II. Image courtesy of Jalal Luqman.

As a pioneering artist with decades of experience, what advice would you give to emerging artists just starting their art journeys?

JL:  Be brave, be honest but above all, be respectful. Art is a powerful tool; it should be used to create a positive change. It should be used as a tool to uplift societies, to record history, to tell stories, and to draw attention to subjects people need to know about. Don’t use art as a weapon, rather use it as a tool to create bridges with it, share love and positivity, teach others and grow together. And when you are blessed with a good sale or a pay day, pay it forward.

You can find out more about Museum in the Sky Volume II and Luqman  here.

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