Loading the Canon #6: Jamali

Loading the Canon #6 by Helena Anne-Hittel


He’s brilliant, with an MFA from the University of Florida in painting and sculpture, an MA in Advanced Economics, and Faculties of Science in Chemistry and physics. He’s a visionary, contributing to the art world with his mystical expressionism. Best of all, he lives in your backyard–if you live in or near Winter Park, Florida, that is.

Jamali, or Faiz Aqdas Hussain Khanjamali Yousafzai, was born in Peshawar, Pakistan, in 1944. He graduated from the University of Peshawar with a Bachelor’s in physics, then moved to the United states where he studied painting. He received a Bachelor’s in Sculpture and a Master’s in Fine Arts in painting from the University of Florida. His sales amount to over $35 million, and he has created over 60,000 works in his collection Art and Peace. Jamali has had 100 solo exhibits, published 8 catalogs and 600 pages of work, and his art is in over 3500 private collections, including the UCF Art Gallery. And, if that wasn’t enough, he’s got facilities in New York, Denmark, and (of course) Central Florida.

Mystical expressionism, according to Jamali’s website, is a blend of ancient artistic tradition and contemporary consciousness. His gestural techniques call back to Jackson Pollock’s action painting. Looking at his oil works, you can see where it fits in. The layers of his paint are thick and uneven, but that’s part of what makes his work interesting.

Jamali has amassed quite a collection of figural oils, pastels and sculptures, mostly human faces. There’s a bit of a familiarity about them, in color and in appearance. They look a bit, to me, like an echo of Willem de Kooning’s Woman, but with crisper lines and a more defined shape. His works look like something you’ve seen before, but there’s something about them that you don’t recognize. What is that face in the canvas? Is it you? Jamali? Or simply a face? Some of them look as though they’re looking over at something. Or that they know something you don’t know. They probably won’t look at you as you pass…but you never know.

Now that you’re sufficiently freaked out, you’re probably wondering why a man with so many degrees in science decided to follow a career in the arts. His spiritual background is a rich one, comprising of bits of Hinduism, Shamanism, Sufism and Buddhism, which he strove to express in art over thirty years ago. Ever since then, he’s used both his scientific and spiritual sides in his art. Not only has this made his works more interesting-his work on cork, for instance, a substance which at once absorbs and resists the pigment placed on it-his works are made using a spiritual approach. Painting is his meditation. He uses the outdoors to inspire and even interact with his works. So, a little dirt got into his painting, or a few leaves. Even better! Jamali lets his surroundings help him create his art.

Jamali’s works are at once undeniably original and strangely familiar.


Helena-Anne Hittel (Episode 35, essay) is an Art History Major at the University of Central Florida and Intern at the UCF Art Gallery.

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