Salman, take us to the beginning of your artistic journey, what led you down this path?
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been attracted to the idea of creating a world of my own. As a child I would often imagine escaping reality and living within a world outside of the real world. I also loved doodling, my mother was keen on nurturing my artistic side and interest, and so she would provide me with the necessary tools for me to express myself through colour and paper. Soon enough she discovered that that was my favourite thing to do, so that was about all I did. I would draw myself in the unworldly settings and draw the various cartoons I was exposed to. In high school my HL IB Art schoolteacher Mr. Wayne Hampton took exception to my talent and mended the required confidence for me to take art seriously.
As an emerging artist in the Arab world what impression do you aim to leave with your audience?
I’m most interested in an audience to hear a voice that I believe to be clear, authentic and true. I am interested in having more from the Arab world to be engaged interested and appreciate art. To spread the gift that is art to a wider audience. Currently, the impression I aim to leave is to restore some sensitisation when it comes to political and environmental issues. I want the viewer to question the formation of a mental blockade that prevents them from appreciating the beauty of the having a real life in the real world. As apposed to living in the “reality” world.
In terms of identity, how much does your Bahraini/Arab background dictate your subject matter?
My heritage is always a starting point, it is the language I speak in. Just like a foreground cannot exist without a background I feel like my heritage is my background. It is the ground I walk on. The footprints I make are in the sand that is my heritage. But apart from that I try not to abide to any generic understanding of art. If my work is not about my culture it is by my culture if is not by my culture it is for my culture.
How has your art evolved since starting your masters degree at the highly esteemed Royal College of Art?
It’s a continuation of an ongoing process of growth and improvement. The RCA allowed me to be immersed and involved in an artist family. Being on campus surrounded by different artists from all parts of the world helped develop my understanding of what It means to be an artist. Conversations and discussions that I had and heard in the RCA helped me shape my own perception when it comes to where I want to be.
Where do you dream of displaying your art and why?
I am interested in a few galleries here and there. I would love to show in galleries such as C L E A R I N G, New York, CANADA, New York, V1 Gallery, Copenhagen and Island, Brussels. Just because these are galleries I keep up with and am a fan of their roster and the shows they put on. But it would be an honour for my work to be exhibited closer to home. The place I “dream” of does not exist yet. It will be a space I establish on my own, the SMNHQ. The space will show my work, other Middle Eastern artists, a shop, a restaurant and a personal studio. Every aspect of the space will be designed by me.
Bring us into your fantasy world, what do we see?
Same world, with people less distracted.
Salman Al Najem is…
A creative force.