Walking into an exhibition by Jamal Abdul Rahim, you’d be forgiven for mistaking it for a group show. The artist’s works vary wildly: calligraphic abstracts sit alongside stone and bronze sculptures, while portraits of icons such as the Mona Lisa or the Statue of David, given an edge with Middle Eastern influences and bright colour, contrast with Miró-esque monochrome canvases dashed with splashes of colour.
‘I believe in the moment,’ explains the philosophical Bahraini. ‘My heart is the compass for my life and my work. If I feel like working on a figurative, I will do so; if I feel like working on an abstract, I will do so. The key in making any form of art is to first know the basics of drawing and how to do it well – the pencil is the master. A doctor can try any kind of medicine, but he must know the theory behind all of it first. That said, once I was asked to critique the works of children in a school , but I said I couldn’t. They have a freedom that I don’t have, and that’s important.’
Despite believing a person must obtain a level of skill to be an artist, Jamal still says he ‘destroys’ his canvases in order to transform them from documentation to art. ‘I will do something so it’s perfect, but then I destroy it with lines and colours. I’m not a photographer, so I have to give the canvas my mark.’
Perhaps best known as a printmaker, Jamal’s home houses one of the largest printmaking workshops in the Gulf. Interestingly, he doesn’t use chemicals in his printmaking process. ‘Instead of kerosene for cleaning, I’ll use cooking oil,’ he explains. ‘I try not to go against nature in my processes.’
The reason he chooses to produce his artworks in print form is also very noble. ‘Printmaking for art came about in the 1500s with Albrecht Dürer, and he made it easier for people to have beauty in their homes. When Rembrandt produced an oil painting that took him five or six years, only the aristocrats could afford it, but his work in print form is something many people could and can afford. My print works are more affordable for people. The beauty is that in creating my art I’m always searching for my happiness, and when someone puts a work in their home, it will become a part of their happiness.’
Jamal Abdul Rahim’s show, ‘A Collection of Works’, continues at The Majlis Gallery until July 7.
Artist: Jamal Abdul Rahim From: Bahrain Exhibition: ‘A Collection of Works’, June 4-July 7 at The Majlis Gallery, Bastakiya (04 353 6233). Price range of works: Dhs625-Dhs25,000 My art is… ‘Something that speaks for itself.’ The artist who inspires me is… ‘Henry Moore, but mostly it’s just anyone around me.’ Dubai is... ‘An oasis of art in the Middle East. You can find everything here.’