Qatari emerging artist Ahmed Al Jufairi has become a force to reckon with on the progressive art scene in Qatar. A Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar (VCU-Q) graduate with a BFA in Painting and Printmaking with a minor in Art History, Ahmed hosted his first solo exhibition ‘Istila’ (defined as ‘appropriation’ in Arabic) at the Katara Art Centre just a week after his graduation. What could be a better graduation present than that?
That was just the beginning. Since then, he has done 12 group exhibitions with other artists, both in Qatar and internationally, and four solo exhibitions in Qatar that have each had their own impact on Qatari society.
Let’s learn more about this 25-year-old contemporary transdisciplinary artist took his infatuation with the singing superstar Beyoncé to new heights as the main muse in his artwork by focusing on his narrative and using her music as a form of inspiration experimenting with various mediums such as intaglio printmaking, oil painting, performance videos and sculptures.
I cannot recall when I wanted to become an artist, I was one of the rare cases where I can honestly say that I was born with the interest, talent, passion and need to create.
I am told by my mother that I was drawing on paper since before I could even walk. I always went into my sister’s room, stole her pencils and papers, would go back to my room and draw endlessly, even in my early years in school - rather than writing down what I wanted to explain, I would attempt to convey what I wanted to say by drawing.
When I heard about the Qatar Museums’ (QM) Fire Station: Artist in Residence programme, I was extremely excited, but at the same time a little nervous. I was not sure whether I was good enough, how society would take me or how I would be able to cope with the pressures of introducing something new- and that something new is me, but I pushed through my doubts and got accepted in 2017. The nine months I spent there taught me how to compose myself professionally to the masses on a global scale. I got the most powerful constructive criticism there from my mentors, Bahaa El Deen and Sheikha Reem Al Thani. With all the experience combined with the outcome of meeting one of my heroes Her Excellency (H.E.) Sheikha Al Mayassa Hamad Al Thani, I was given the gift of confidence in myself and what I stand for.
Then came my acceptance to be a resident at the renowned Cite International des Arts in Paris - one of the world’s most prestigious art residencies. This was a defining moment on my artistic path. I learnt the beauty of 'Do it Yourself' - a concept that the Parisians live by on a daily basis. I learnt how to let go of anxieties that stemmed from a place of exterior expectations and how to simply let go and just be an artist. I took this opportunity and squeezed it to its core with the amount of knowledge I soaked up during my time and the various museums I visited highlighting the works of great and timeless artists that have shifted perspectives throughout history. Residencies are dreams coming to reality for artists; they are essential for anyone who pursues art.
I would like to be remembered for all that I have done, not a single piece or a specific exhibition but the body of work that was my journey and life as an artist. If I had to choose a legacy that would be tied to my name it would be my message, which is simple: hope, love, resilience and battling cultural taboos that have been set by previous generations.
My biggest achievement has been and will remain resilience.
It is an unexplainable fire within me that ignites every so often that takes over my mind, my life, my thinking and my emotions. If I do not go with whatever that voice is that is telling me to create, I tend to go to a very dark place where I am frozen mentally and physically. It is an everlasting necessity that comes from deep within my soul.
It all depends on the topics I wish to discuss with whichever piece I will be creating. My work has always been prominent with the obscure use of colours, I believe I see things differently to everyone around me which allows me to portray that on canvas and showcase the harmonious colours I see regarding the energy of either an object, a place, a person or an idea.
I remember being a kid and not having many friends, not because I was not popular; on the contrary, I have always had people skills, but until this very day, most of my time I prefer spending in front of a canvas thinking about the universe whilst applying parts of myself on an empty surface and creating something that I always hope has never been done before.
Unlike many, my influences have been and will continue to be the icons of art throughout history, legends such as Van Gogh, Frida Kahlo, Picasso, Marc Chagall, Andy Warhol and the list keeps going on. I prefer learning from the ones that have accomplished greatness and had the influence to change mindsets through the power of art.
My inspiration has always been popular contemporary music, more specifically Beyoncé. I believe we are connected in a spiritually artistic way, many either find this strange or extraordinary, I see it as the truth, my truth.
Creative expression can occur while a person is asleep, let alone deliberate aim to express creatively; every single thing on earth can be used as a medium to create or express a certain concept, art is not only on canvas, it is the air we breathe.
Whenever I create, whether photography, videography, sculpture, printmaking, performance or painting, I tend to put my heart and soul into every single inch of every single piece I create. I attempt with all that I am to be as genuine as possible, disregarding the wants or likings of my surroundings but instead pouring whatever I want to convey on whichever platform I choose to have at that time. I cannot explain my trademark or what makes my work recognisable, but strangely it is! Based on the feedback, I receive of course.
Overthinking, obsessing, excessive planning, writing down, jotting down, and finally letting go and allowing the anxiety to be released, then just doing.
My favourite art medium, which I believe I was made to use is etching, which is an ancient printmaking method using copper and acid. Since I do not have easy access to this, I usually go for painting, other printmaking methods or performance art videos. Not saying that I do not love each of these approaches, but in an ideal world, I would be etching day and night.
Dear People of Qatar,
My name is Ahmed Al Jufairi. I am an artist of various talents. I have been in the art scene both locally and internationally in the professional sense since I graduated from VCU-Qatar in 2014. Please support my fearlessness as I fight for yours. Please continue to thrive, do not forget who you were as a child; the dreams, ambitions, goals and the idea of justice you had. Fight for yourself and more importantly stand with your neighbours and what they fight for in a positive manner. Keep growing and keep believing in yourself like no one else did.
Be resilient, be your own hero, your own support system and know that you will have highs and lows. Do not restrain yourself to one place geographically, branch out and make your country proud of your name and the legacy you are fighting to have. Never create for the sake of being relevant on Instagram, create to make a change and to influence whatever it is that burned inside you once in the past; always remember why you chose the difficult path of being an artist.
Have you been to any of Ahmed's exhibitions? What do you think of his art? Does he inspire you as an artist? Does his art inspire you? Do let us know your thoughts in our Comments section. Like and share the article - it keeps us going!
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