Artist Lina Osama chose to reimagine eniGma’s cover stars Hala Sarhan, Samira Said and Riham Hagag on the occasion of our Covers Reimagined event last June. eniGma’s Nouran Deyab sat down with the rising artist to learn more about her artistic journey and the experiences which led to her choice of the career path.
Lina Osama obtained her degree as a painter from the Faculty of Fine Arts at Helwan University in 2009. She also spent summers studying art abroad in several institutions, most notably at the International Art Academy of Salzburg in Austria and attended workshops in Cairo and abroad.
“I believe in the very wise saying that ‘every place you go, you pick up something that remains eternally yours and you leave a little piece of yourself there,’” says Osama, adding, “Art doesn’t exist on its own; it’s interconnected with politics, economics, fashion and so many other things. We’ve been going through a lot of changes in the past years in Egypt and worldwide – a lot of ups and downs! And we are about to reach a new kind of stability and reality that we didn’t have before. So it’s important during these times to experiment. We may look back after 10 years and think this was the right thing to do or this was the wrong thing to do but right now it’s very important to experiment and keep doing art.”
“As a child, I travelled a lot with my parents and I became interested in observing people; their features, looks and how they behave. I examined differences in cultures and common traits and realized that the similarities in people are much more than their differences,” she explains. “As artists, we have three main tools to use: our mind, our hands and our eyes. Our hands are all about training but the mind and eyes are how we see things and they direct us to where we go. Travelling is important because you have different visuals and aesthetics,” she adds.
other disciplines besides her art studies, namely Egyptology and film making in particular, both of which benefited her work. She also lived in England for two years, where there was much interest in Egyptology and ancient Egyptian history, which she tends to use in her art. She finds that Egyptology adds drama to her paintings, while her study of filmmaking has helped her in the use of light in her art, even though film is a very different art form from painting. “When I studied cinema, I was told that a big part of cinema is illusion. You don’t have to build a wall out of bricks, you can do it out of cardboard, as long as the picture on the screen is convincing. Painting is very different from that. It’s intertwining the visual
composition and the material,” she explains.
Impressively at the age of 15, Osama held her first exhibit where she showcased portraits of celebrities – inspired by the death of the icon Soad Hosny. “Celebrities have a different personal life than they show to everyone,” says Osama referring to Hosny’s alleged suicide.
For her most recent series, “Becoming Vintage,” Osama researched vintage images and was surprised that celebrities she grew up watching were considered “vintage.” “It started with the Covid lockdown when we were all having waves of nostalgia. I was curious to find out what happened to the people we looked up to as kids. I googled the word vintage on the internet and was expecting images from the 60s-70s to come up but was surprised to find images from the 90s! I began to research further and found that the things I was used to were already becoming vintage!” she exclaims, adding, “I learnt a lot about the differences in lifestyles and how famous people can identify a generation. The internet is breaking barriers and distances internationally when it comes to art.”
Osama is all about including people in her art. Even when a piece revolves around animals, dolls or action figures she always includes a human presence. “I like to express passionate beings and like to use semi-abstract backgrounds with symbols hinting at the figures and their actions. The background should give little stories and details about the interaction between people in the stories. I personally feel that paintings are missing something if they don’t have a human spirit; that’s why I like to study human beings: biologically, historically and psychologically,” says Osama.
Referring to her technique, Osama explains, “In any project, the beginning is exciting but exhausting because you are researching and you don’t know if you will catch the end of the thread and start the series or give up and lose interest. So it’s very tricky and a little worrying! You have to put a lot of emotional investment into it! If you get an idea in the middle of the night, you have to get up and write it before it goes away – it’s like catching fireflies! The end part of the process is also difficult. That’s when you have to choose a gallery to display your work and they also have to choose you. You have to think about curating and display and bringing the project to light. You also have to think which pieces you will showcase and which you won’t.”
Osama, adding, “If I sketch, all the emotional charge goes out to the sketch and then the painting will be missing something.” Like any artist, she has a go-to set of materials, “I love acrylics, they dry fast and I can do several layers in just a couple of hours. They can give you the illusion of oil and with practice, you get to know how to use them differently. Sometimes I’ll add one or two other materials or I’ll highlight with oil bars and charcoal and even with gold leaf. I went to a workshop in Maadi where I learnt about gold leaf,” she explains.
According to Osama, with art becoming more and more diverse and complex, it sometimes becomes overwhelming. Referring to eniGma’s Covers Reimagined event, which she found exciting and refreshing, Osama exclaims, “Art should be fun! It took a lot of years for me to understand this point. As an artist, you want to be serious and dramatic like artists like Van Gogh which you read about. But you realise that you only live once and the art world is changing and becoming more and more of an industry. Artists deserve to have fun events like this one!”
On her choice of reimagining Hala Sahan’s cover for eniGma’s fun event, Osama points to the fact that she admires successful women who believe in themselves and also pull up other women. “Hala Sarhan is one of these people. She has beautiful energy and that’s why I chose to paint her,” Osama affirms.
“As a curator, I would like to say it’s interesting that in the past couple of years we’ve seen more and more of these events that bring fine, pure and contemporary art together with other subcultures, like businessmen, entrepreneurs and celebrities,” Osama continues. “A diverse art scene is necessary as are all kinds of events as well. Even though I am a museum and top-notch gallery kind of person, it’s fun to experience such events.”
Note: “Becoming Vintage,” is on display in downtown Cairo at the Access Gallery till the beginning of September.