Khaleeji Art Museum

Sumayyah Alsuwaidi on the Future of Digital Art

The Emirati artist and curator says, 'The future is digital.'

By Alanood Al Wahaibi

Emirati curator and artist Sumayyah Alsuwaidi. Image by Jacqueline V. Belizario.

Born and raised in the United Arab Emirates, Sumayyah Alsuwaidi is a curator who has helped push the UAE’s art scene forward, having curated some of the country’s significant exhibitions, with one of her latest being, Life Is A Circus, an exhibition that traced the development of digital art in the UAE, and provided emerging artists with empowering opportunities. She is also one of the UAE’s first digital artists, who is known for her unique style of art that is deeply introspective, and which she has exhibited in the USA, Morocco, China, France, UK, Switzerland, Germany, UAE and Kuwait. The accomplished artist’s work was also auctioned by Christie’s in 2012 as part of the Modern and Contemporary Arab, Iranian and Turkish Art Exhibition Part II and was exhibited at Sotheby’s Galleries in London as part of  The Three Generations Exhibition in 2013.

In an interview with Al Suwaidi, we delved into her journey as an artist and learned more about her distinctive artistic style and her works A Fishing Hope and The Deer Snake, which are currently showing in the 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. This interview was edited for length and clarity.

You are one of the UAE’s first digital artists, having begun to create digital artworks in the 1990s. How were you introduced to this medium?

SA: I was drawn to it back in 1996, when I saw my cousin on her computer creating designs as she was a graphic designer major at the UAE’s Higher Colleges of Technology back then. 

You’ve come a long way since then, having left an indelible mark on the UAE’s art scene and created works that have been exhibited globally. Could you tell me about the works you are showing through the Museum in the Sky?

SA: My artworks come from various collections, each one of them represents a different time in my life. These collections showcase a range of styles and subjects that are parallel to my thoughts and emotions during that period. From the vibrant and abstract to the realistic and detailed, my artwork offers a glimpse into my personal journey as an artist.

The Deer Snake by Sumayyah Alsuwaidi is currently on view on Museum in the Sky Volume II. Image courtesy of Sumayyah Alsuwaidi.

In your artwork titled The Deer Snake, as with many of your works, you combine characters, animals and objects, which is an approach you have become known for. Can you please tell me how you decide the combination of digital art in your work? How do you choose each?

SA: The process of creating art for me begins with identifying the message that I want to convey. Once I have a clear idea of what I want to depict, I begin to explore the different ways in which I can express it digitally.

Can you describe the meaning behind  A Fishing Hope? How does a fish resonate with the idea of hope in your own perspective? 

SA: Fishing holds a deep significance for us Emiratis. Given that we live in a country surrounded by water, such maritime life is deeply rooted in our heritage and culture. Fishing is more than just a livelihood; it is a symbol of hope for a better tomorrow, because without our past we don’t have a future. 

A Fishing Hope by Sumayyah Alsuwaidi is currently on view on Museum in the Sky Volume II. Image courtesy of Sumayyah Alsuwaidi.

Based on your experience and from your own perspective in the digital art world, describe to me the current standing of digital art. How do you see it evolving in the future in the UAE and the wider Gulf region?

SA: The future is digital, especially with the increase of interest on the NFTs. More traditional artists are entering the digital world, and they are part of the future that expands not only in the UAE and the wider Gulf, but the world.

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

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