The interview was published the The Boutique Magazine, an independent home grown Emirati magazine that talks about art and design among other topics of aesthetic relevance. Posting the text below for a closer read:
Interview by Archana RD aka B’lu, an artist-journalist based in the UAE who writes on global art and culture
The Citizen E Art Gallery curator, and one of the most important voices in the UAE's art scene, Jalal Luqman reflects on what lies beneath the 'Art of Word' exhibition
Q. Why the ‘Art of the word’? Please spill the inspiration to the event title and lead us to any current/news relevant events that have had an impact.
A. When we look at letters regardless of what language or what alphabet they relate to, we get drawn to the phonetic association of the letter, but there is more to it. If we look at letters, or words as images, lines, dots, curves and streaks then we admire the visual element of it. The way a Chinese letter or word may appear to a Chinese is different than an Indian who does not know how to read Chinese, so the Indian enjoys the visual element of the Chinese word, and vice versa.
Q. Could you visualize Citizen E Gallery to become a museum of the UAE through all ages?
A. No, Citizen E’s function is not that of a museum, Citizen E is an art gallery with an open mind, we work with the established artists, while we support the newcomers who want to learn, we listen when no one else wants to listen and we help when others are to up in the sky to help the small person.
Q. How would you curate a show that consisted of the peculiar nature of design as the central focus of the art?
A. If we take the titles away, and we do not pigeonhole practices we will fail to find any difference between art and design. There is no clear definition of art. Also what is design? Is it art with function? So do we mean art has no function? I don’t waste my time categorising the function. I see the raw act of creating and dreaming, regardless of the materials that are used, or what the function of the resulting work is. So in short the answer to your question is - letters and words are neither design nor art, it is the artist or designer who transform the letter or the word to something else.
Q. What do you consider to be your most successful shows from the previous experience? How do you measure success?
A. Success as a curator or a gallery is the amount of exposure the artist gets, and how much of that exposure translates into sale. Artists like all other humans need money to survive. Enough with the praise and the clapping. So to me one form of success is when we have an exhibition where there are sales. Another more philosophical politically correct answer would be, to consider the exhibition a success if the message in the artwork helps improve the surrounding environment, helps enrich the viewer and to elevate the art and culture society.
Q. Is there a natural connection between calligraphy and the art of the land?
A. Remember way before language was ever created humans communicated through drawings; they kept historical record of their travels, their lives and their hunting parties, so yes calligraphy in my opinion is closely related to the people of every land.
Q. Have the ‘general public’ really had as much contemporary art as they can bear in the UAE?
A. Building an appreciation for art in the UAE is going to take a long time, however attracting the international art love to the UAE will take much less time. There is never enough contemporary art in the UAE, and as long as humankind walks the earth, there will always be contemporary art. And the more the UAE attracts it, eventually the general public will get used to it and grow to learn about it and appreciate it.
Q. Has the development of the emirate helped you in collecting or exhibiting?
A. Well as an artist who started before the art revolution of the UAE I believe I had my share of publicity locally and internationally, as a gallery it is great because after a long track record as an artist my gallery gets credibility based on my past experience.
Q. What was the process of curating the current exhibition – please run us through the story – how the idea came about? Please share if there were any special memorable episodes this time.
A. It was very simple. I was planning to have a calligraphy exhibition, then I noticed that some of the hardcore calligraphers were too confined to the proper rules and regulations associated with their art, this automatically alienated many artists who produced beautiful artwork which had calligraphic qualities yet did not conform to any rules (very similar to my approach to art, rules and being 'proper'), so I did away with the rules and opened it to anything with a word or a letter of any language and every culture, and the Art of the Word was born.
Q. Is there a future for such exhibitions?
A. If we count the applications we received, then yes. They did not stop pouring - I had to stop accepting them very soon after I announced it. However, we are yet to see the viewer’s opinion and that will be known after the opening night.
Q. How much influence has grass root local history/art movements contributed to your themes and new displays?
A. I stand at the crossroads of time, I saw the past, I see what is happening now, and based on where I have been and where I am, I have an idea of where we are going, and this is the reason I give particular attention the locally grown artists. When I say the locally grown I mean all artists who are in the UAE, who grew here and became Artists on Emirati soil, because they are the ones who are the true historians of the land, they are the ones who’s art will tell a true story of what happened here hundreds of years from now, yet in this new art revolution where only the new and the foreign is appreciated the locally grown talent will be left behind unless people like me have their back.
Q. Do you ever get negative reactions to art in show? How do you counter art criticism?
A. When one has spent as much time as I have in the field, you learn to pay attention to who and what is important, remember every person has an opinion, I don’t have time to listen to negativity - life is too beautiful to waste.
Q. When you programme your titles, what informs the connection between the collections and topic?
A. I just keep it simple, something that everyone can understand and relate to.
Q. When people read Citizen E brand name, do they too often think only of Emirati? Was this challenging?
A. Not at all, E can stand for Everything on Earth, Emirati or European, you make the E what Ever you want it to be
Q. What’s next project in the pipeline?
A. To bring back Jalal’s Art Trip in 2017.
Q. What would be your ideal in-gallery photography policy? How much value do you give/associate to photo publicity/campaigns to art events.
A. We are surrounded by snapping pictures and videos, our brains have become accustomed to receiving thousands of images a day, unlike the old days, now we see much more visual garbage that for us to pay attention to what is important swiftly gets buried in our brain by a new pile of visual garbage. My ideal photography policy would be to look at the art and not take a picture of it for at least 15 minutes before you reach for your smart phone to click a picture of it. Teach your memory to preserve the image of the artwork, then after you are done you are allowed to snap away.
PS: Thank you for reading and staying inspired in art all around you!