Jamal Bassiouni

Jamal Bassiouni is an artist who lets the viewer’s imagination run free while expressing his own subtle cues and mixed feelings in his paintings. An accomplished painter, he graduated with the highest honours from the Faculty of Fine Arts at the University of Alexandria and went on to earn a master’s degree in Oil and Painting. We were lucky to get to know him somewhat closely at eniGma when he took part in eniGma’s Covers Reimagined event with a beautiful painting of Khaled ElNabawy. eniGma’s Nouran Deyab spoke to the rising artist to learn and explore his artistic journey and style.

Alexandrian born artist Jamal Bassiouni’s graduation project for his bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts in 2016, revolved around colour relations and their impact on modern art. He went on to earn a master’s in fine arts in Oil Painting and Drawing, and this time around, his thesis focused on ancient Egyptian paintings. The young artist’s talent was recognized early on, and he was invited to participate in private exhibitions as well as in several Youth Salons and General Salons organised by the Egyptian Ministry of Culture. He has also participated in videography workshops in Europe held by Ecole Superieure d’Art and at the Biennale des Jeunes Createurs de l’Europe et de la Mediterranee.

According to Bassiouni, he finds inspiration in anything and everything. “I can find inspiration in the smallest details in nature as well as in situations that I experience. But most of the time there is a background story behind any piece of my art; my personality and life events are reflected in my work,” he explains, adding, “Usually you can tell the artist’s condition by looking at a painting. What I went through in life, where I lived and grew up, and my personality, all appear in my work. Even the colours I use represent me. Previously, I used to use all mediums, but now I mostly use acrylic and mixed media. I don’t like dark colours, I like pure and bright colours like those used in contemporary art.”

With his passion for bright colours, it’s no wonder Bassiouni admires the 80’s New York City born graffiti artist, Jean-Michel Basquiat. “The way Jean-Michel Basquiat uses colour is fascinating, and you can sense freedom in his art,” he explains. He also admires the work of Egon Schiele. “Egon Schiele uses colour in a very cold yet emotional way, and it’s so abstract,” Bassiouni adds. However, while Basquiat and Schiele are both very precise when it comes to faces and facial expressions in paintings, Bassiouni likes to leave that all up to the viewer’s imagination. “Most of my paintings don’t have faces, I like to leave the feelings of the model up in the air. That way viewers of my artwork can interpret the mood of the painting themselves without cues based on facial expressions,” he explains.

With his art usually revolving around stories, it’s no wonder that the first step for him is the mental stage. “For me, painting is both mental and technical. First, I must think of a story. It usually originates in something going on in my life or around me. Then I begin to sketch; that way I know where everything will go. But while creating the story is important, the technical side is what I really enjoy,” he explains, adding, “When I begin painting, everything is already set, but sometimes in the middle of working on a piece something new inspires me, and my original plan begins to change. These random detours are actually intriguing.”

These random detours sometimes lead him to finish a piece earlier than expected, “Knowing when a piece is done and being satisfied with it are two different things. I may not finish a project because somewhere in the middle I felt like this is what I wanted to express, so technically it’s actually finished,” he adds, stressing that when he reaches this point, no matter how hard he tries to finish the piece, he just can’t because, for him, the story has ended.

Like most artists, Bassiouni faces creative blocks at times. “This happens a lot. Sometimes for months on end, I don’t work because I can’t think. But I always find ways to clear my mind, like travelling and visiting calm places. It makes all the difference,” he says.

Asked about his favourite pieces, Bassiouni replies, “Most of my paintings are important, but there are projects that stick out more than others. Usually, it’s because the painting holds an emotional moment for me.” He finds it notable that the first painting he ever sold was one of his standout pieces. Another one of the pieces that stand out for Bassiouni is his painting for eniGma’s Covers Reimagined event of last June. “When I received the call from ArtTalks Gallery, the first thing I did was research eniGma. What caught my eye was that it had to do with fashion. After that, I just went with the flow,” he recalls, reminding us that the models in most of his paintings are dressed in fashionable and modern clothing.
Khaled ElNabawy’s cover recreation is no less fashionable and elegant, except that, contrary to Bassiouni’s norm, you could see ElNabawy’s face and expression.

Bassiouni’s first solo exhibition, “Birds of Passage,” took place in 2021 at ArtTalks Gallery. His collection of paintings transported his audience through “a journey of self-discovery,” where women were symbols of life and the “makers of unconditional love.”

In Bassiouni’s last exhibition, “Birds of Passage,” he left his audience with a quote by the French philosopher Denis Diderot: “Nature is like a woman who enjoys disguising herself, and whose different disguises, revealing now one part of her and now another, permit those who study her assiduously, to hope that one day they may know the whole of her person.”

His personal adventure was dominated by a world of misty backgrounds, women and animals. Positive energy radiated throughout the pieces, with horses notably symbolising power and feminine forces symbolising freedom and divinity. His paintings also included breathtaking birds, each symbolizing different aspects of life and nature.

Looking ahead, Bassiouni says he is open to trying different techniques and forms of art and has already experimented with sculpture. Yet, he doesn’t think too much about the future, he says. “I don’t like thinking about the future or planning. I do the most I can possibly do and leave the rest to figure itself out.”