Q: You are an internationally known artist. Could you tell us about how it all started?
My artistic career started very early in life, in Egypt where I was born and grew up. Having demonstrated above-the-norm abilities in drawing, I was encouraged by my father, who bought me the necessary tools to go ahead in my endeavors. I became an avid doodler and drew on any paper I could find – even in my text books. I took some art courses in my teens, but they were very unsatisfactory. The professor wanted to change my creations and interfered in my imaginary renderings. From then on, I was self-taught.
I immigrated to Montreal and started painting seriously and professionally. I had so much nostalgia for the relentless Egyptian sun that I would look at the snow falling outside the window and would paint sunny imaginary landscapes inhabited by people.
I gave my first solo exhibition in a gallery in Montreal. I also got an honorable mention for an abstract painting in a group show in Montreal. It was my first painting—vibrant colors. Abstract art was not known in Montreal in the late 1950s. I was surprised the organizers even accepted my submission. I had submitted a nude before, but it had been rejected because, I was told, it was not appropriate for child visitors. Yet, in Europe, nude statues are all over the public squares – different upbringing and cultural mentalities.
After a couple of group shows in New York, I settled down in Switzerland, where my artistic career took off in leaps and bounds. My first European solo exhibition was in Paris. I had excellent reviews in the newspapers. The Paris exhibition opened doors for me and encouraged me to apply to other galleries in Europe, mostly in Switzerland.
I took a course in etchings in Geneva and produced quite a collection of them, their theme being intertwined human figures. I contacted print edition galleries in London, Paris and Rome, and my etchings then got distributed to other galleries all over the world. They can still be found online, being sold at auction.
Through a lot of moving around, working at a United Nations organization in Geneva, and raising two children, I never stopped painting and exhibiting. Painting was my passion. I finally opened my own gallery in Geneva which I had to close when I moved to the U.S.—again. I have done about 100 solo shows worldwide, numerous international art fairs, and my paintings are in private nad public collections.
Q: Do you think one is born an artist, or does one become one? If the latter, what did this mean for you?
I think one is born an artist. I really don’t know how one becomes an artist if one does not have the talent. Maybe the talent is hidden and comes out later on in life. But, one can tell from children’s drawings who has talent. Perseverance and a love for art can also contribute to becoming an artist, but only technically. I don’t think imagination can be taught. To be a real artist, one needs imagination and going beyond the borders.
Q: You have a long and impressive career. Looking back, what has been the most rewarding thing you have done?
The most rewarding thing I have done is take printmaking classes in Geneva. It opened international doors for me. Also, participating in numerous international art fairs around the world made it possible to have international contacts.
Q: Inspiration is key for an artist. Where does yours come from?
My inspiration comes from my life travels. Living in Egypt surrounded by desert, then living in Florida, surrounded by the oceans, have contributed to my inspirations. Actually, one journalist dubbed my work “Blue Reveries and Red Desertscapes”. I was also inspired by the colors of the New Mexican landscape. I can look at the ocean and an image comes to my mind. The same goes for looking at a desert landscape or the sky or the pavement. Inspiration is all around me. The colors in nature are fodder to my paintings. But I don’t COPY nature, I distort it and invent it. The people in my paintings are also all from my imagination.
Q: You live now in the US. Is there a difference in being an artist there in comparison with living in Switzerland?
Yes, there is a difference in being an artist in Switzerland and being one in the U.S. The difference is in the public. The public in Switzerland is more art-minded and receptive to art. This also refers to the whole of Europe. In the U.S. they still go for representational art. I am talking generally and not about the highly ranked galleries where people buy big names for investment. People in the U.S. want to understand what they are looking at. They are not curious to discover art they don’t understand. They feel more confident in hanging something that makes sense to them. Again, I am talking in generalities. There are the art aficionados in the U.S., but one has to look for them. I have met a few. I love it when a viewer can see something in my paintings that I do not see.
Q: What are the key messages of your art?
I have one key message: help the public to see the world in new and innovative ways. Conceptually, I try to immerse the viewer in the perceptual experience of space, color and light. Therefore, my paintings actualize perception by carefully balancing these elements. I have a fascination with creative imagery that is an area of space occupied by floating forms that may join or float independently. Finally, by using color and texture, I try to breathe movement into my “abstract landscapes” to guide the viewer into the paintings and making the person wander into a different reality.
Q: Finally, if one would like to buy your works, how should one go about this?
Anybody interested in buying my art should go to my website and either buy it through the site or contact me. I also do commissions. People have often asked me to do a similar painting in a larger size or do a giclée painting of an existing one. A giclée painting is, of course, much less expensive than the original one.