Artist and printer Jamal Abdul Rahim reminisces a time in the 70s when Bangalore was still a beautiful city. But that was during his teenage days, when book printing hadn't taken over his life. “I was a hippie that time. I took a one-way ticket and came back after five years. My family thought I was dead,” he said. During that time, he obtained a diploma in engineering drawing.
Mostly a self-taught artist, Jamal’s talent ranges from painting to sculpture to calligraphy. But Jamal loves to talk about printmaking, his passion for the last 27 years. He became a member of the Bahraini Arts Society in 1988, a year after holding his first exhibition. It was here that he came across the works of eminent artist Abdel-Jabbar Ghadban in etching and printing.
He set himself to learning the basics of the art and now owns one of the largest printmaking, etching and lithography workshops in the Middle East, located at Al Muharraq in Bahrain. In 1995, he turned to printing books, letting the words of Arab singer Um Khulthoum, poet Adonis and the sufi poetry of Omar Khayyam inspire him. The handprinted pieces are distinct for their original style. Printed editions are limited with pages also restricted to a few. Some of them were on display at Bait al Baranda as part of the Muscat Art Festival last week.
He takes pride in his Bahraini roots, calling it the place of the strongest art movement in the Middle East. “What is best is that we are independent there. In my studio at home, it feels like I am in exile,” he said in jest. “Each moment has its own beauty. In art, I am not looking for a style, I am looking for a moment.” A stickler for the basics, he added that it helps one to then create anything. “It gives you freedom to do what you choose.” Freedom is a word which frequently figures in Jamal's sentences. He sees himself as a detached spirit who lives life on his own terms. “You live only once. Your freedom is important.”