CAIRO – 29 December 2017: Nada Baraka, a contemporary Egyptian artist whose work deals with surreal abstract themes, recently spoke with Egypt Today on the various aspects of her artwork and what she explores with it.
Your work tends to deal with the surreal and abstract. Why do you choose this theme?
Surreal means something that is real and imaginative, and abstract is something that is unknown, distorted. And the combination of both causes a sense of sensuality and mystery.
Those keywords make my artwork. And since my themes are always related to the body, and what better way for me to express my views of the body and space than in creating something that is obvious but unclear, aiming to show something but at the same time it leaves you to wonder or continue the dots.
Do you have a routine while drawing?
My routine is quite simple I collect quotes, fictions, movies and images and then I have several canvases around me and I start painting on the spot coherently in series of work, I do not sketch, but there is usually a vision in my mind, yet I let the canvas direct me. I start with a background and use multi-layering technique.
The painting process is intuitive, unplanned, and fed by inspiration from many different sources, like Japanese anime, sci-fi novels and philosophical texts on the body and its relationship with itself.
What themes do you hope to express with your artwork?
My themes are usually related to the body inside out and its relation to the world, but it keeps developing throughout the years. My work explores the dynamics between interior and exterior spaces through series of abstract-surreal paintings. The body’s relationship with its surrounding and its inner process. I also look particularly into three spaces in the man-made world; factories, hospitals and bedrooms, as reflections of the body’s interior processes, or contradictions to it.
Factories as functional spaces of production are in constant motion, obsessed with repetition, copies and perfecting mass produced molds. Even as they produce textures to imitate life – slimy, malleable, soft – the results remain soulless.
Hospitals are like cold laboratories, realms of maintenance, regeneration, and where the body is deconstructed, and the severity of sterilization clashes with tender and fragile biological entities. Bedrooms, then, are spaces of intimacy, and also clutter and chaos, where there is a kind of naked truthfulness only found within a private space.
Elements from these spaces are condensed, combined, scattered and dissected, to try and express relationships I see everywhere between the organic and the structural, fluidity against rigidness.
As an undercurrent, I am concerned with how we experience extreme emotions, and how the discharge of endorphins has a way of plunging us into reality because of how they disturb it. The paintings seek to portray these explosive instances that occur in these spaces, to capture this extremity of emotions.
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How has your art been received, both here and abroad?
My art has been received better abroad because my peoples experience towards art in general, the contemporary art scene is much broader and bigger. There are artists who also use the same language and art is generally largely appreciated, however in Egypt the contemporary art-scene is growing and more people are interested in learning and understanding art that there are more art centers opening.
The positive part is that because the scene is so small, I receive adequate criticism from internationally renowned Egyptian artists that are usually hard to reach if they were not in Cairo. Viewers are more accepting to my art than for example four years ago.
Who are your biggest inspirations?
My biggest inspirations are artists who managed to pull a chord at people's emotions, artists who affected people with their work, artists who are constantly passionate about their work and always aiming for more developments.
Artists, philosophers, writers, filmmakers and scientists inspire me to create and to believe that there is no end to creation
The person who inspires me is Shady El-Noshokaty because he chose to be a pioneer in Egypt. He refused to live abroad and change art education in Egypt and from his teachings a lot of artists and professors came to be, so I owe him everything. He is my mentor and always pushing me forward, and he inspires me to be selfless when it comes to art. He is a true definition of a true artist.
Where do you see yourself in the future, where would you like to be?
I see myself as an international artists exhibiting worldwide, one day having my own history of art. It is a wonderful thing while you are still alive for your art to be studied academically, as an inspiration for future students. And I hope one day if I succeed I am able to give back, and help emerging artists in their journey.
Finally, what advice can you give to artists who are just starting out?
I advise artists to be patient and never give up because although it is a long journey it is worth the wait. And very rarely do people know from the start what they want to do in their lives, and are given with such a gift so we should not take it for granted and make use of it. Be thirsty for art, research the art world because it is so diverse and large, you can create endless projects and works, you need to concentrate, be passionate and believe in yourself.
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