Marwan Shahin is the fourth Artist of the Month in our year-long series with Art Egypt spotlighting Egyptian artists.
by Art Egypt
Marwan Shahin is a 26-year old self-taught artist, digital illustrator and graphic designer who says he’s influenced by pop art and neo-surrealism. “I work on my unique style from my studio/home, creating a striking depth with my idiosyncratic sonic line and hatching technique, working on mystical pieces infused with dark humor,” Shahin says.[caption id="attachment_496736" align="alignnone" width="620"] Marwan Shahin[/caption]
With a degree in graphic design from the Faculty of Fine Arts, Shahin’s work has been exhibited worldwide and he’s created album covers for big-name rappers, including M.I.A. and Kid Cudi. Shahin says he loves collaborating with fashion lines on limited collections, and considers himself an ambassador of the graphic t-shirt. Shahin is also the creator of the cover art for Walls of Freedom (From Here to Fame Publishing, 2014) an infamously banned book on Egyptian graffiti.
What inspires your art?
I get inspired by pop culture, religion and mostly real life by trying to achieve something surreal that cannot exist in reality. I basically get the ideas flowing in my mind, like why aren’t there niqab-wearing girls who ride Harley Davidson bikes? I try to imagine situations that could stir questions and emotions in the viewer. I’m inspired by the universal language of iconic brands. I want to use that language to express my vision — whether it is my concerns for Egypt’s affairs, or pointing out flaws in our society or just for the sake of art and inspiration. And to inspire others as well. How has your artwork changed and evolved over the years?
I’ve always been illustrating — notorious for doodling in class. I moved my focus to graphic design and art direction by the time I was in high school because I was obsessed with album covers. But I stuck to my roots as an illustrator and managed to mash all those skills to create a perfectly original illustrated album cover. I guess creating something from scratch does have its own unique joy. I later worked on establishing my own signature illustrating style, which I call “Sonic Hatching.”[caption id="attachment_496727" align="alignnone" width="620"] Habibi, by Marwan Shahin[/caption]
What do you like most about your art?
That I’m able to create a unique brand and identity in my work. Some people see it as a flaw, like how come all my work looks similar? I feel like that’s the point. All Van Gogh paintings are painted in the same technique, most of Roy Lichtenstein’s paintings are comic panels of crying women. I could go on and on. ... I feel it’s about creating your own signature style and perfecting it till you reach that level when a young art student can recognize your work just by looking at it — like, “Oh, it’s a Picasso.” That’s basically what I’m trying to achieve.
What are your thoughts on the art scene in Egypt?
The art scene in Egypt is a bit chained. We try to express ourselves to the maximum limit, but there are still consequences. I’ve seen Ammar Abo Bakr’s murals removed just because they could be interpreted as being against the system. The kid who got three years in prison for photoshopping Mickey Mouse ears on the president’s photo. Ahmed Naji was sentenced to serve two years also for his novel, and of course Walls of Freedom was banned in Egypt, after it masterfully documented the graffiti of the Egyptian Revolution and curated thousands of images and works of Egyptian artists. I honestly believe this is harshly against freedom of expression, and butchering the creativity and ambition of not only Egyptian artists but all Egyptian youth. I’m not at all political. I’m just against chaining imagination and creativity. Tell me a bit about how you work, and what’s your process?
When I have an idea, it usually takes some time to come to reality. I usually start by collecting images for vibes, references and inspirations, and then I create a vibe/mood board. I used to create these mood boards before they were called mood boards, way before Pinterest. Then I usually start by choosing the color theme for the artwork. It usually changes during the process. Then I digitally illustrate base objects that shape the artwork itself, and then I work on patterns and lines on my Wacom [interactive pen display.] Then I work on shadowing and lightening in my Sonic-hatching technique to achieve depth in the artwork. It’s easier said than done. It’s a long process before the final sonic image comes to life, while maintaining all the silkscreen print rules to most of my artwork: mid-tones, limited colors in each piece. Since I have a very high appreciation of silkscreen prints, it’s my intention that every piece I make should be silkscreen printed in limited quantities.[caption id="attachment_496728" align="alignnone" width="620"] High all Night, by Marwan Shahin[/caption]
Who is your favorite Egyptian artist?
Aya Tarek takes the crown. I don’t think I’ve seen something even half mediocre from her. Eslam Bakr is an incredible talent. Youssef Nabil, Ammar Abo Bakr and Islam Zayed.
What are your plans for the future?
I just launched my online store, where I’ll be releasing original goods — everything is limited edition. I recently got very interested in print making, so it will be a great platform to sell limited original art to collectors. I’m working on a series of hand-pulled silkscreened t-shirts which should be available on the online shop by the summer. I’m also working on a very controversial new series called “RADICAL.” I’ll be showing a few pieces from it in an exhibition in Argentina. I’m also in talks with a Japanese manufacturer to create vinyl toys of my art by next year. Should be interesting.
Art Egypt (@art_egypt) is an Instagram account that boasts the largest database of young artists in the country. They aim to promote contemporary fine art from today’s most talented Egyptian artists. To be considered for upcoming Artist of the Month features, send your artwork to Art Egypt at firstname.lastname@example.org.