Interview: Ahmed Al Jufairi: Qatari Pop Artist
Qatari Artist, Ahmed Al-Jufairi on Co-exiting, Beyoncé and Doha’s Art Scene.
Ahmed Al-Jufairi is a 23 year old Qatari Artist who is trying to terminate the fear of expressing ones self, inspired by pop culture and more specifically Beyonce, he believes that West and East can definitely co-exist.
He gives us an interesting insight to his thoughts on society, expression through the arts and Doha’s art scene.
Tell me about the journey towards being an Artist?
Ever since I could remember I would always catch myself admiring objects which most people might overlook or take for granted, from the branches of trees to the caps of bottles, I found myself questioning the construction of these things and the elements that surround these objects. I strived to search for the uniqueness of things and showcase them to the world.
Thankfully my mother saw this gift in me and supported me to pursue the art world. I graduated from VCUQ in 2015 with a degree of Fine Arts majoring in Painting and Printmaking and a Minor in Art History and have since had a solo exhibition in the Katara Art Center.
I believe that my journey is unique and that’s what makes art truly beautiful, it’s like a fingerprint not only that it is one of a kind but also in the sense that it is a mark that I have and will continue to make for history through the expansion of culture and influence.
What inspires you to create your work?
The idea of expression has always been an interest to me as a Qatari artist, the freedom to not only create work without limitations but to also touch on subjects that are taboo due to our private culture, I admire people who push through this barrier with their art and raise public awareness to important topics, this is the only way a society can grow. Avoiding ideas rather than tackling them or even embracing them will narrow people’s minds and my goal is to push boundaries in order to push society to think about subjects that are vital which will certainly lead to growth, intellect and development.
What are the reoccurring themes in your art work and is there a reason for this? I noticed the Beyoncé theme a lot, tell me more…
Ever since I enrolled as a student in VCU-Qatar, I basically took my Beyoncé infatuation and magnified it, I realized how bizarre it was to people when they heard that Beyoncé was my main muse. It was a struggle using the public figure in the western world as an inspiration without my art being categorized as Fan Art, however I have managed to push through that notion by not making art in admiration towards Beyoncé, but instead using my narrative and how I used her music as forms of inspiration for my life throughout the years.
You’ve also included yourself in your work like the piece ‘Halo’, is there a reason for this and why?
For my self-portrait titled “Halo”, I wanted to premeditate the word “Halo” cohesively complimenting the aura surrounding the painted figure which symbolizes a statement I am making:
Qatari men and women should not be judged or ostracized if their interests do not compliment the norms of society.
Differences in thought should be celebrated because they are an example of Uniqueness. Uniqueness leads to Variety which leads to Beauty. Surrounding the Self- Portrait are 12 paintings of masks, through this installation I wanted to propel the notion that the masks are used to hide the true persona of a person. We all have various masks that we wear, to make it simple think of the way you act in front of your boss versus the way you act with your siblings.
What are you trying to communicate with your art?
I am trying to terminate the fear of expressing one’s self.
Only once this fear is phased out is when Self-Actualization, Respecting Autonomy & Enlightenment can occur. Don’t hide what you like and what you don’t like, your opinion is just as valid as anyone around you no matter their status or rank. Individuals should simply be themselves without the fear of criticism. I am also attempting to say that although being a Beyoncé fan is normal in the western world, it truly is seen as shocking here in Qatar, but by including cultural imagery in my work and titling them with Beyoncé song titles, I have shown how the notion of coexistence and appropriation is not only possible but is all around us.
What are your thoughts on the current art scene in Doha?
Although Qatar has a fast growing art scene, it is in no doubt lacking in giving Fine Arts graduates job positions, I have not realized this until I graduated from VCU-Qatar with many of my peers, and we are truly struggling with finding any job even though we possess the qualifications for many of the positions in the art world. The society needs to trust us and believe that we are qualified to work in achieving the 2030 vision rather than the heavy reliance on a foreign workforce especially in the Qatari art world today.
Connect us with a few of your favorite Arab Artists at the moment.
There is no doubt that two of my biggest inspirations in the Arab art scene are Ali Hassan, a Qatari artist and Yousef Ahmed, a Qatari artist. They are two of the scarce artists that have paved a way for the arts in Qatar and I am grateful and inspired by their unbelievably amazing works, their bravery in pursuing the arts and making it normal for our society to accept Qatari men as artists.
Lastly how do you connect to your culture and/or Identity?
I have always been a Qatari, it does not matter what my interests are, be them western driven or Beyoncé inspired, these things simply make me more proud to be from a nation where progress, education, harmony and evolution are essential aspects to each and every Qatari. As I have shown in my work, I have many pieces where I showcase the traditions that we follow as Qataris, that being said, I do not want to constrain my ability to create work based on where I am from, if I choose to be inspired by western pop culture then so be it.