Mariam Faried

a Master of mixed media art

When thinking of “art,” it’s important to let go of preconceptions, as in reality art comes in various forms and can involve many different techniques. This realization stared us in the face when we organized eniGma’s Covers Reimagined event last June. We were particularly struck by the Lara Scandar cover recreation by Mariam Faried, which was so fragile. It included so many layers of thick paper one over the other, that we were afraid we would accidentally tear something while hanging it. eniGma’s Nouran Deyab spoke to the artist behind the beautiful art piece to get to know the creative idea behind all the layering, colours, gold-leaf and thread, as well as to learn about her exciting journey as an artist. Here are some excerpts from the fascinating interview.

Could you give us a brief overview of your education and artistic career so far?

After graduating from the Faculty of Arts from Helwan University in 2006, I went on to obtain a post-graduate certificate in painting and drawing from the same university. And participated in many solo and group exhibitions in both Cairo and Rome. I won the Egyptian Youth Salon Award in 2010 and the National Award for Artistic Creativity in 2014.

What was your technique when you began your art career?
When I first began, my focus was on live performance, installation and video art. It was conceptual. My work had everything mixed together – everything completed each other. For example, in 2010, I had a project called “Life Inside,” which was about what could happen inside a human body that would reflect, through actions on the outside. Each person has his own circle, and whether you let people in or place boundaries, it is your call. I worked a lot on the concept of motion and how the human body itself is a work of art. This project won several awards.

I later began experimenting with mixed media, which I’m still working with to this day. My own movement on the installation as well as people walking in as I am working and seeing their reactions and their interactions with me are all very important to my work. I began thinking of how I could do that with mixed media. I liked working on paper and began doing small sketches. I have to know beforehand whether my painting will be flat or have layers, especially because I can’t flatten a project if I had already started adding layers to it.

What inspires you and your work?
Whether I’m working on a live performance, video or mixed media, things that inspire my work are human beings, human nature, and nature itself. It’s all about layers and small details that create the totality of a human being or of something in nature, like the ocean and its depth, its transparency and even the corals within it. Therefore, I like to use things that have layers as references.

The ocean, the desert, the white desert and Siwa, all these natural places are inspiring to me. I feel like they connect to my body and my energy. A small example of layers in the human body is our skin, which is all about layers. Somehow it all adds up to the person or character I am dealing with. My work really relates to nature. Places speak to me even if I haven’t been there. You can really see this in my mixed media work; it’s all white and engraved in the paper. And the colours I use are very light, like grey and gold.

Who is your favourite artist and why?
Frida Kahlo and Van Gogh are two of my favourite artists from the past. As for artists from this day and age, I would say Amal Kenawy, who passed away a couple of years ago. I love these artists’ work because their ideas are out of the box, and they work with concepts that have to do with their bodies, pain and struggle. I feel like this is realistic and I can relate to it when it comes to my art.

How is your personality reflected in your work?
I went through different periods and traumas in my life; like my father’s death in a car accident, which happened right in front of me. This was something very difficult for me and I was able to get past the trauma with my art. I expressed my message of pain through my art. I use gold-leaf and silver string in my art and cut up pieces of paper. The string symbolizes continuation, that a person continues no matter what happens in their life. The string could symbolize either positivity or negativity, but in the end, there is continuity. Even if there is pain, I continue. This is an important message that’s showcased in my art. The cut-up pieces of paper symbolize the scars that will always remain no matter how much a person struggles and how hard we try to move on.

What is the process you go through to create a piece of art?
I really like to talk through nature. I think of what I’m feeling at the moment, and I speak to the paper and build a dialogue. I prefer my artwork to be layered and not flat because it’s a conversation. I don’t like sketching, I like talking to my blank papers with needles, cutters and string. The conversation begins at any time, usually when I feel like I need to talk. I let myself take everything out onto the paper.

What part of the process is your favourite?
I like when the cotton paper is white and I begin contacting it with tools, so it starts speaking back to me, and in return, I have more to say to it. It’s a shared feeling with the paper.

What makes you feel like a piece is complete and that you are satisfied with it?
My art is based on a conversation between myself and the paper. When our conversation is over, that is when I feel like the piece is complete.

What is your most important piece and why?
The last exhibition I took part in, “Deepest Within” at the ArtTalks Gallery, included one of the most important art pieces that I have ever created. It was deep and the message was “Look into the Depth.” You can see someone from the outside, but once you begin talking and interacting with them, it’s a whole different experience with them – it’s all about layers and depth.

Tell us about your experience with eniGma’s covers reimagined event…
It was a very nice and new experience for me. It was a challenge for me because my art is abstract and conceptual, and this was a whole different experience for me. My cover star was Lara Scandar, and I don’t usually work with figures. But I think the outcome was beautiful and many of the guests appreciated the piece. I loved that each artist was working with his/her own technique and style. The fact that it was a social event with celebrities and other artists, was also an important step in my career.

What tools and materials are you most comfortable working with?
My cutter, needles, string and paper are the most important to me. I feel free when I’m just tearing through paper.

Are there any types of art techniques or ideas that you have not yet worked with, but are willing to experiment with?
I’ve worked with a lot of different techniques, like sculpting, live performance, installation, video art and mixed media. I think what’s more important than trying different techniques is sending a message. But I do wish to somehow incorporate all my art techniques one day into one project. I have done something like this previously in Rome. It was about the female body, women, and pain, but on a small scale. I want to do something big next time!

What are you looking forward to in the future?
I want to continue passing on my message with an honest approach. I want my work to be seen and heard.