Engy El-Bouliny

Sculpting the Human Soul

This month we are celebrating a new artist, Engy El-Bouliny, who expresses herself creatively through sculptures. A 2016 graduate of the Faculty of Fine Arts, Alexandria University, Bouliny has participated in several group exhibitions, including our glamorous eniGma’s Covers Reimagined event last June. Her participation at the Enigma event was in the form of a Greek-god like reimagined portrait of Mohamed Ramadan. eniGma’s Nouran Deyab spoke to the talented artist to find out more about her artistic journey, her inspiration and her artistic philosophy.

What inspires you?
People! I watch people everywhere, every day and in every situation. People are very rich art material. They are sociable by nature, and they always want to form relationships and build bonds with one another. While we cannot live in isolation, we are so different from one another, in terms of character and in how we bond, share and express our feelings. Human relationships are the mirror of the soul. They reveal our hidden sides, and this is what determines our status. This interaction of souls is what I want to embody in the different angles of my sculptures – so that the viewer can relate to them and translate them. But in the end, everyone’s perspective will be different.

Who is your favourite artist?
This is the hardest question to answer. I don’t have one favourite artist – I have many favourites. I love how Lorenzo Quinn expresses how people relate to and interact with each other; and how he uses materials, colour and even texture in his artworks. I love how Jean Louis Corby simplifies the human body and leaves the rest for your brain to imagine. I love when he transforms the human body from curves to a geometrical, sharp-angled body, yet it does not feel strange when you see it. His work is very eye-pleasing.

How is your personality reflected in your work?
I’m not the best person to talk to people especially about myself or my ideas. But through sculpting, I am able to express myself way better than by talking. People can also infer something about my personality through my artwork. While artists who obsess over the need to make everything perfect often are afraid of failure, it is ironic that because of this fear they fail to ever put anything out there. Nobody is perfect; I accept the idea that I’m not perfect, and that makes me feel quite satisfied with failure. The only path for growth is by putting your work out to the public, and you may or may not succeed. So I always accept the idea of failure because it is the only way to learn more.

What is the process you go through to create an art piece?
Sculpting is the most challenging type of art. To have a complete piece of sculpture you have to go through many stages. First, you start to build a skeleton for the sculpture to hold the clay on. Then you start building the sculpture with clay. This is my favourite part. I can spend many hours with my fully free imagination without noticing how much time has passed. After that, I make a mould of the sculpture. Then comes the hardest part of the process, which is bronze casting. After you have your piece in bronze, you start softening the surface and add the final touch and, of course, the patina, which is when you add the final colour and polishing to the sculpture.

What makes you feel like a piece is complete and that you are satisfied with it?
I have never felt that I’m fully satisfied with an artwork I have made. I always want more and more. At first, I struggled with this feeling. Even before I graduated, I was never satisfied with one idea or one project. I had to work to my last breath to produce as many ideas as possible. This feeling is the most important reason that my artworks are constantly evolving even now. To be honest, I feel satisfied when I exhibit my art and receive positive feedback.

How do you overcome creative blocks?
Honestly, I get that a lot! My longest creative art block lasted for three years. I was having many distractions in my life, and I couldn’t find any inspiration. But I don’t let this feeling hold me back from what I want to achieve. I also don’t put too much pressure on myself either. Rather, I let this feeling take its time and after it passes, my artwork develops! Also, my job as a curator gives me the chance to be open to seeing different artists and their artworks.

What was your most important piece and why?
My favourite piece is “Temptation.” It was the first piece I created after struggling with creative block for three years. So I will always be grateful for this piece, as I consider it the piece that put me on track again. I see myself through it. Another favourite is the “Apple of Eve.” Throughout time, man has always been associated with the desire to gain power and knowledge. Eve manifests the human struggle to attain complete perfection. The apple which normally symbolises love, knowledge, wisdom and joy, is often also used to symbolise luck and wealth, as well as rebellion. These aspects are moulded onto the different angles of the sculpture for us to relate to and translate.

Tell us about your experience with the eniGma event…
Actually, it was one of my favourite days ever. We all had so much fun meeting the celebrities we painted. The event was incredibly organized and allowed us to meet many celebrities and share our artwork with them. Also, meeting so many artists was a pleasant opportunity to share our experiences with one another. eniGma always inspires us all to achieve what we want.

Are there any types of art that you have not yet tried and are willing to experiment with?
Since I am a graduate of the Department of Sculpture, I don’t do oil painting a lot. But recently I started several paintings to get to know the materials and methods of drawing more professionally. In the future, I want to merge my paintings and my sculptures. The sculpture can be an inspiration for the painting.

What are you looking forward to in the future?
In general, to develop myself as an artist and not stop at any point. I want to try new materials and new techniques and get out of my safe zone, as well as participate in many art exhibitions to gain new experiences. I would also love to make sculpting my professional job and wish I can make up for my periods of creative block. And lastly, I have always wanted to study sculpture in Italy – the source of art itself!