Jalal Luqman: “Sleeping with the fishes”, 2022, courtesy of the artist.
Jalal Luqman: “Sleeping with the fishes”, 2022, courtesy of the artist.

“Art is a universal language that any person could comprehend in relation to his intellectual and cultural background. Art speaks to everyone in his own language and lifestyle, and it is a different kind of hunger, hunger for creativity and longing for beauty, it is the embodiment of an incident or a certain state; objective or subjective”(1)

The advancement of science and modern technology has led to the development of new styles and types of art, such as graphic art, digital arts, and NFTs, in which talent intertwines with technical knowledge. Digital art emerged back in the 70s of the past century. It is known to be the artwork or technical practice in which digital technology is used as an essential part of the creative or showcasing process. This art relies on digital formats of the artist’s choice to turn, using the computer, into visual art forms. Jalal Luqman is one of the first artists who become passionate about digital technology and utilized it in creating their artworks. Artist Jalal Luqman has benefited from computer capabilities and its various programs, and managed to introduce visual art in a new and innovative style that combines traditional artistic values and computer technology artistic values and its various programs. The artist has gained fame and acknowledgment as a multi-media artist, where he combines his understanding of the movements, trends, and styles of visual arts and digital arts.

Artist Jalal Luqman has introduced many artworks, embodied using different raw materials, in addition to huge models, which revolved around various subjects such as Arabic calligraphy, local environment, heritage, women, childhood, nature, virtual figures, and others.

The Beginnings

Jalal Luqman started to draw at an early age, he actually drew wherever he could, using whatever mediums he could find. For that, he was often punished at school for drawing on the table, on the wall, or on his clothes and his classmates’ clothes. The artist noticed at that time that art has the ability to evoke all kinds of feelings; like the feeling of joy or anger, and it also has the ability to provoke. The artist was impressed with cartoon characters such as “Superman” and others since he was a kid, he dreamt about having his own world where he had the ability to create different characters, and give them new and different appearances and features. He says “I used to make oil paintings with a brush, oil paints and watercolors, and pencil. My teachers and classmates in middle school used to love the comic stories I made.” The artist mentions him getting his first computer device back when he was in middle school, “ever since I was a child, I used to go to the beach and to the desert and try to capture those beautiful images in my mind so I can go back home and draw everything I saw, and with my family support, I went on my artistic journey, and I had my first computer device when I was in the first year of middle school.”(2)

The artist here was referring to the early 80s and the emergence of computer devices and their varied programs. At that time, the artist tried to find books to learn computer programming but all he found were some magazines. After finishing school, he traveled to the USA and when he came back to the UAE, he used to always take pictures of the places around him. He says “I used to go to fishermen pay and take pictures of them and pictures of heritage buildings and hotels, then I get to work on developing them myself then work on them using computer devices.”(3)

Artist Jalal Luqman benefited from his studies and his ability to use many computer programs related to designing, thus fulfilling his artistic ambitions and creative skills in technical fields. He managed to do many artworks in an innovative style, which was considered kind of strange to the art community at the time, which paved the way for him to work on designing catalogs for exhibitions after his artworks gained attention from institutions, which marked a starting point for his career. Artist Jalal Luqman mentions that the first computer device he used was ZX81 in 1981, but the limited capabilities of the device and its performance in graphics made him change to Atari 800, which was more advanced, and he started to innovate digital artworks using Deluxe Paint programs, which came in the shape of a Cartouche and enables to produce 8-bit-sized graphics.

Jalal Luqman, speaking to us about his early beginnings, says “The beginning was a bit modest, but I started with ambition, determination, and desire for success, but it wouldn’t have been possible without my father’s financial support. I was perhaps also one of the first guys to own a computer device in Abu Dhabi, and the designing programs were basic and unfit to accomplish my ambitions, but the gradual and increased development of programs came up with complex and detailed programs from which I benefited along with the artistic skills, which helped me achieve what I inspired. During my journey, I used clay, acrylic colors, airbrushes, rubber molds, ceramics, coal, and pastel paints. I also created some of my artworks in the USA.”(4)

A career in art

Jalal started his career as a commercial artist. He worked on designing postal cards, invitations, posters, and flyers, until the Cultural Foundation became one of his clients. The visual arts management team discovered his artworks and they soon realized how ahead of their time his art is, and how he deserves to be featured in an art exhibition that fits his status. The Cultural Foundation hosted the first digital art exhibition in 1996 for Jalal Luqman productions, officially declaring the beginning mark for this type of art in the UAE and the rest of the GULF region. 

Jalal Luqman: “Sleeping with the fishes”, Digital Art, 1080×1080 video pixels, 2022, courtesy of the artist.
Jalal Luqman: “Sleeping with the fishes”, 2018, courtesy of the artist.

The exhibition, with its three sections related to the local environment, civil advancement, and free speech, included 62 artworks, which showcased the artist’s intuitive talent, creative capability, and mastery of computer programs and ability to adapt them to serve creativity and produce innovative art pieces. the displayed artworks took the audience on a journey throughout history, back to the times of falcons and camels, and to far planets and aliens.

The current exhibition gives us a glance at the history of the first digital exhibition held by the Cultural Foundation but with a new idea and concept.

Jalal Luqman started his career by designing catalogs, invitations, and brochures accompanying exhibitions held in the Cultural Foundation, one of which was “a catalog of Arabian Jellabiya” and another catalog for an exhibition that embodies the history of Abu Dhabi, and others. Dr. Reem El Mutwalli, who was in charge of exhibitions at the time, asked him for a sample of his artworks, and she organized a solo exhibition for him at the Foundation. With that, the Cultural Foundation organized its first digital art exhibition by Jalal Luqman, officially declaring the beginning mark for this type of art in the UAE and the rest of the GULF region. The exhibition was considered a pioneering project at the time, thus marking the beginning of his career.(5)

On the margins of Jalal Luqman’s exhibition, a seminar was held in which the topic of modern artistic technologies was discussed. It stated that creative artwork is the product of the seeing eye and the moving hand that chooses the colors, spaces, and the design itself or the idea… it is also worth mentioning that the artist, in spite of his usage of computer programs and its various technologies, he still embodies the local environment and heritage in his artworks, as his device encompassed numerous photographs he captured himself to be the foundational theme for a series of artworks done by computer programs and technologies, about that he says: “Heritage is a valuable part of our lives, and maintaining it is the responsibility of each artist, writer, or intellectual… for me, I see the computer as an essential medium to preserve heritage, because any researcher could easily restore the heritage via the world wide web (internet), and through that tool, we will be able to introduce our heritage to the whole world”, and for him “an image is worth a thousand words.”(6)

Artist Jalal Luqman has proved himself worthy and moved from being a commercial artist, who designs some artworks on demand, to a visual artist with exceptional talents.

The artist held many local and international exhibitions, in New York, Kuwait, Egypt, Morocco, Czech, Washington, Beijing, the United Kingdom, and others. He is considered the one to bring “digital art” to the UAE for the first time, in 1996, which makes him a pioneer in that area, on the UAE and GULF region level.

It is also worth mentioning here that the Cultural Foundation is hosting now, after 26 years of hosting the first digital art exhibition for artist Jalal Luqman, the current exhibition, at the same studio, another digital art exhibition titled ” Life is a Circus”, featuring Jalal Luqman along with a group of artists, but with new idea and concept.

References

1. Jalal Luqman: Personal interview (recorded), zoom, 16/8/2021
2. Jalal Luqman: Personal interview (recorded), zoom, 16/8/2021, “Memory & Art”.
3. Jalal Luqman: Personal interview (recorded), zoom, 16/8/2021, “Memory & Art”.

4. Jalal Luqman: “Jalal Luqman’s exhibition catalogue”, The Cultural Foundation Publications, 1996.
5. Jalal Luqman: Personal interview (recorded), zoom, 16/8/2021, source: “Memory & Art”, book by Dr. Noha Farran.
6. Jalal Luqman: “Utilizing Computers to Serve Creativity”, Al-Watan newspaper, 1996, the artist’s archive.

Chief Editor | Website

Art historian, curator, visual artist, & editor-in-chief of Al-Tashkeel magazine. she holds a Ph.D. with distinction in "Art & Science of Arts," in addition to holding an MFA in Fine Arts and an MA in Philosophy of Art. She has numerous published books that provide documentation for Art in the Arab World.

“Al Tashkeel” Magazine

he first issue of “Al Tashkeel” Magazine was published back in 1984, four years after the formation of the Emirates Fine Arts Society. The fine arts movement was witnessing growth and gaining traction on all other artistic levels.