Arleb by Nabad interviews established and renowned artist Jamal Maalouf, former Professor of higher education at the Lebanese University – Institute of Fine Arts – and at the Holy Spirit University (USEK), and member of the Lebanese Artists Association of Painters and Sculptors.
Arleb by Nabad – Can you tell us more about your background?
Jamal Maalouf – I was born in Beirut in 1940, and brought up in the scenic region of Msaitbeh and Mazraa. My childhood created the canvas for what would become an enduring love of landscape art. In 1970, I was granted a scholarship by the Lebanese University for a three-year in-depth study of art in France. After specializing in Scenography, the art of designing theatrical scenery, and mural art at the ENSAD – École Nationale Supérieure Des Arts Décoratifs – in Paris, I returned to Lebanon to teach at the Lebanese University – Institute of Fine Arts – and the University of USEK. From 1973 to 2004, I taught and inspired students who would go on to become masters in their own right in the fields of Fine Arts, scenography, architecture, and interior architecture. Many of whom collaborate with me and create art to this day.
In 1989, I was promoted to the rank of Higher Education Professor by virtue of a decision taken by then-Minister of Education and Higher Education Michel Eddé. This is the highest rank for university educators, after which I was appointed as a member of the committee, trusted with the authority to study teachers’ folders and assess their eligibility for a professorship.
My work has featured in over 100 exhibitions to this day both locally and internationally. I have created sets and worked on more than 12 scenography projects for illustrious theatre plays between France and Lebanon.
After being awarded a medal by the president of the Lebanese University on my retirement, and a brief hiatus from the world I knew so well, today I can be found enthusiastically contemplating breakthroughs in my newfound passion, abstractionism. I use this renewed vigor to bring to life the ideas I had when I was younger.
Throughout these years, the one credo I have always preached is “to be honest with oneself”. And it can be seen in the lifetime of the work I created. Carrying a piece of me, my childhood, my experiences, my struggles, and my triumphs.
Arleb by Nabad – What is the experience that has influenced your work the most?
Jamal Maalouf – During my art career, I produced hundreds of art paintings on several topics and mediums. My most prolific artworks were Lebanese landscapes. Most of my works were sold in exhibitions and private sales, and only a few dozen remained, the ones I made sure were not sold. To most prolific creative minds, hum-drum life of familiar rhythm can become quite unsettling. This is why at this time in my life, I took a hiatus, deciding it was time for a re-evaluation of myself. I painted less, and along with this decreasing production of art, so did my presence at exhibitions, meetings, and reunions. After this period, a new artistic expression of mine started to appear, mingling with the previous one, intermittent sketches made both in Lebanon and abroad. I found himself leaning towards the abstract and beyond.
Arleb by Nabad – Which subjects or themes are you working on?
Jamal Maalouf – I am constantly triggered by the events that are happening around me in Lebanon and I find peace in my colors and art. My art expressions are a constant transmutation of all the negativity that is surrounding me, acting as an energy shifter to positivity and life.
Arleb by Nabad – What is your creative process like?
Jamal Maalouf – I am continuously sketching and drawing, the ideas and images are constantly flowing to my mind. There is no specific time and space for creativity and anything can become a canvas for the initial sketch to being brought to life. Many times, when in social gatherings, I can stop whatever I am doing, grab a tissue box, a plate, a napkin and start sketching ideas that come to me.
Arleb by Nabad – What was the impact of the Beirut port explosions (August 4, 2020) on your work as an artist/creative enterprise?
Jamal Maalouf – Shifting energies from negative to positive seems to be a continuous process for me. It feels like a repetitive pattern, but I choose to believe that hope and light are always there and that we are moving forward and upwards on the journey.
Arleb by Nabad – What are, according to you, the roles of arts and culture in social, economic, environmental, or political change?
Jamal Maalouf – Images can carry a lot of emotions and emotions create movement. They play the role of energy transformers and can carry powerful messages that can shift behavior.
Arleb by Nabad – What are, according to you, the main challenges/obstacles facing artists/creative enterprises in Lebanon nowadays?
Jamal Maalouf – When it comes to my generation, it’s definitely challenging not to have the same platforms to connect with art lovers as before. Now everything is on social media and on the net and it’s not my area of expertise.