When AI powers art: Dubai artist Jyo John Mulloor on how technological intervenes in art

Is it a gimmick? Or just an easy way out? Dubai's leading AI artist on harnessing the power of imagination with technology by your side

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Anamika Chatterjee

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Published: Wed 8 Nov 2023, 3:13 PM

Last updated: Thu 9 Nov 2023, 8:22 AM

Since childhood, Jyo John Mulloor had trained to be an artist. What he hadn’t factored in, of course, was the disruption in the art world that would come in the form of artificial intelligence (AI). So when the Dubai-based designer began to create digital artworks using AI, it received international recognition for showcasing the transformation of the futuristic city. Today, his art has found a place in the Museum of the Future; he has also worked with Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park and even Dubai Media Office. “I am also an educator, conducting workshops on blending art and AI. My talent lies in seamlessly merging AI with manual tools like Adobe Photoshop,” says Mulloor, adding that his journey is a testament to art’s power in bringing joy and connection to people’s lives.

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As a traditional artist (he began with paintings) and visualiser with over two decades of experience predating the AI era, he has attempted to incorporate traditional skills in the digital realm. “Even before AI rose to prominence, I was actively engaged with 3D CGI software and various 3D platforms, particularly Unreal Engine,” says the Reemram resident. “While I have embraced AI, my workflow involves dedicating an additional 30 per cent of post-production work in Adobe Photoshop for each project,” says the 39-year-old artist. “This commitment to achieving the utmost in realism that is at the heart of his creative process.

Lately, one of the charges levelled against use of AI in art is that it is the easier route in comparison to traditional art. Mulloor sees considerable merit in that contention but says it’s important to recognise that art, in its various forms, serves different purposes and can co-exist harmoniously. “AI art doesn't replace traditional art but offers an alternative creative avenue. Traditional art often involves deep personal expression and tactile engagement, while AI art can push the boundaries of innovation and accessibility. Both have their merits, and it's not a matter of one being the "real deal" over the other. It's a matter of artistic choice, and many artists, including myself, aim to bridge the gap between traditional and AI art, emphasising the potential for collaboration and expanding creative horizons. Ultimately, the value of art lies in its ability to connect with and evoke emotions in people, regardless of the medium.”

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One of his most popular projects was one where he created an Arab version of the characters from Friends adorned in traditional Arabic costumes. “The artwork featuring Matthew Perry, for example, represents a creative exploration of merging popular culture with traditions. This concept allows reimagining of well-known characters within a different cultural context, adding depth and uniqueness to the art. By infusing elements of traditional Arabic attire, the project bridges the familiar with the unfamiliar, and this approach can be seen as a creative innovation,” says Mulloor. “It showcases how AI art can be a powerful tool to reinterpret and celebrate cultural diversity, while also keeping a connection to global pop culture. The goal is not to replace but to complement and expand the creative possibilities in art.”

AI art also demands imagination. Mulloor says artists utilise their faculties of imagination to conceptualise the initial idea, select the most suitable data for AI training and guide the AI model to align with their creative vision. “Imagination allows artists to infuse their unique, personal touch into AI-generated art, enhancing and refining results to match their artistic style. It's also instrumental in interpreting the final artwork, helping artists convey its meaning and context to the audience. In this collaboration between technology and creativity, the artist's imagination is the element that injects the art with its creative essence, providing each piece with a distinct perspective and emotional depth.”

Jyo John Mulloor
Jyo John Mulloor

Recently, at the Museum of the Future’s ‘Hybrids of Creativity’ exhibition, Mulloor represented India as one of the 12 featured artists, displaying a series of eight unique artworks that explored the fusion of art, technology and culture. While Monkeys Unite depicted monkeys huddled together to symbolize unity, in Futuristic Emirati Flight, he envisioned flights of future where tradition meets technology. The iconic Mona Lisa was depicted in Arabic context.

Of all the art series he’s created, the one closest to his heart is ‘Selfies From The Past’ series that allowed Mulloor to merge his passion for history with the creative possibilities of AI art, bringing iconic historical figures to life in a contemporary and relatable manner. “It's a project that combines innovation, nostalgia, and a sense of wonder, and I'm deeply connected to it.”

Looking ahead, says Mulloor, you can expect more explorations into the convergence of AI, culture, and history. “I'll continue to push the boundaries of what's possible in AI-driven art, aiming to surprise and inspire viewers with fresh and imaginative creations. Additionally, my commitment to education and collaboration between art and AI will remain strong, as I seek to empower others to harness the creative potential of this technology. The future holds exciting possibilities for art, and I'm eager to contribute to this ever-evolving landscape.”

Here are some more photos by Jyo:

Guide for aspiring AI artists

1. Master the Tools: First and foremost, become proficient in the AI and machine learning tools relevant to creating art. Familiarize yourself with software like TensorFlow, GANs, or dedicated AI art platforms. Understanding how these tools work is essential.

2. Learn the Fundamentals: Don't neglect the basics of traditional art. A strong foundation in techniques, composition, colour theory, and perspective will enhance your AI-generated art.

3. Cultivate Your Creativity: AI can generate art, but your unique creative vision is what sets your work apart. Experiment, think outside the box, and let your imagination flourish.

4. Collaborate and Learn: Connect with fellow artists and AI enthusiasts. Share your knowledge, seek feedback, and collaborate on projects. Learning from others and sharing your expertise can accelerate your growth.

5. Stay Updated: AI is a rapidly evolving field. Keep up with the latest developments, as new AI models and techniques are constantly emerging. Continuous learning is key to staying at the forefront of AI art.


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