Houda Bakkali is a Moroccan-Spanish artist embracing the digital era to produce truly unique, interactive works of art which she exhibits each year in the Principality.
Monaco Life sat down with the artist at Le Pinocchio restaurant in Monaco-Ville, where she is currently exhibiting, to understand more about her art techniques and what digital means for the future.
Monaco Life: We see digital techniques in mainstream media everywhere today – in advertisements, in film making – but what exactly is digital art?
Houda Bakkali: Digital art is like any other type of art. The unique difference is that we use digital tools to create it. It all starts with an idea, a concept, then you give it your soul and creativity to bring it to conception. An artist can use acrylic or oil paints, an iPad or laptop to materialise that idea. I think it is about time that we speak about digital art like any other type of art, because it is the same. Art starts in the soul of the artist, and they have to go through the exact same processes to bring it to life.
How do you create your art?
Sometimes I begin by putting my idea down on paper in pencil, then I use different tools on my iPad or laptop. In ‘Life is Beautiful’, for example, I used photos of flowers that I had taken and then I applied the digital tools to make a composition. Finally, I printed it and used acrylic to finish the artwork and give it texture. It is created using mixed media, combing traditional with a touch of digital.
Women feature heavily in your artwork, why is that?
My art is a tribute to my mother, particularly in the ‘Beautiful African Woman’ series. My mother was a very strong woman who believed in freedom and equality for all, which was not so easy for an Arab Muslim. But she defended the freedom to choose her future and make her own decisions. She is my biggest inspiration.
You also use a lot of colour in your works, and flowers, what are these meant to symbolise?
Life is about balancing the bad with the good; sometimes we have to focus on the solutions, not the problems. I have had a lot of tragedy in my life, I lost both my parents early, and I could have gone down or up. But I came to think of difficulties as a challenge and an opportunity to change. So, I am always looking for ways to express this idea, and I usually use flowers because they symbolise nature, something new, giving life – a short life but a continuous life. Happiness can be very short, but there is happiness, so take the moment. Carpe diem.
How do you respond to people who don’t consider digital art to be real art?
I try to explain that art starts with a concept. The tool is not important for me. Today, digital is one of the most exciting trends in art, we have NFTs that are going to move the world.
The most important thing about art is that there are no rules, art is open and it can help others to open their minds. As digital artists, we expect the public to understand that this is our work, our creativity, our story … the tools may be different, but the concept is the same.
There are many famous digital artists with works that are worth millions. People just need more information about the process, they need to be more confident in digital artists and their tools.
What is the main point of difference for you between traditional art and digital art?
Digital art doesn’t die. For example, there is the digital version of my artworks now, but tomorrow I can change them. Today, this artwork speaks one story to you, then tomorrow it is going to tell a different story. This is a very unique concept in the world of art. Digital art is not static, it is dynamic and alive with soul.
You apply technology in other ways to your art, can you tell us more about that?
With my piece ‘Life is Beautiful’, there is an app that allows you to see it in movement. You can see the story, and the girl speaks to you. Tomorrow, I can change it. You can sit in your house with your IPP and it is going to tell you another story.
I also use augmented reality. When people come to my exhibition, I can film them on my mobile surrounded by the art work.
For an artist, it means a lot when people take the time to come to an exhibition, so I don’t want to just present my artwork and explain the story, that’s boring, I want people to enjoy the whole experience, to have something different. Art must be like a therapy.
You mentioned NFTs, is this something you will be using? How do you respond to people’s opinion that if they can’t hold an artwork in their hands, if they can’t physically touch it, then it is not real?
But what is real in this life? I can’t reveal too many details just yet, but yes I am going to explore NFTs in a few months and I am very excited about that.
At first, I was very cautious, but now I have learned more and I believe that this is the future, this is my future because I create digital art. The main problem is misinformation about NFTs, or no information. If you have good information about how it works, the system and the rules, then you understand that this is the future so you have to put your artwork there, be a part of that community, be like the rest of the artists and enjoy it.
Education in digital art, the digital era and the concept of digital is really very important.
We have to be a little bit visionary. When I start with NFTs, I will feel like I am a part of the future, part of the revolution, and I love to feel like that.