Mina Isaac

The Passionate Artist’s Musical Debut

Long before Mina Isaac realised he had a talent in painting, he was busy trying to build a career as a singer. Along the way, however, he discovered he had a passion and talent for painting as well. He decided to take up painting seriously and began breaking through the art scene in Cairo. He came to eniGma’s attention on the occasion of our Covers Reimagined event last June, when he was chosen to reinterpret our cover featuring May El Ghety, Mariam El-Khosht and Hend Abdelhalim when they were still budding actresses. eniGma’s Ezz Al-Turkey sat down with Isaac to find out all about this artist/musician and his journey in both his art and his musical career.

Alexandria-born, Mina Isaac graduated with a degree in Law, only to discover shortly after graduating that he had no interest in a career in law. As a young man, Isaac had always dreamt of a music career but felt that his chance of realising his dream was close to nil. Little did he know, however, that he was also gifted with a talent in painting. He had never really thought much about painting until he started reading about hyper-realism art.

“I had always been drawn to music and singing since I was a kid. I wanted to be a singer. But then I discovered art and it became a career for me that I could never have imagined. I started practising painting, especially hyper-realism and found that I was actually pretty good at it. That’s when I decided to take it further and start doing it more and more,” he recalls.

Hyper-realism is a school of art that focuses on very realistic portraits, not straying too far from reality. Isaac has become known for this style of art. He loves to capture the true essence of people’s facial expressions and every tiny detail. “I am inspired to paint when a face provokes me. Some faces have so much to say, even if the person is silent. These are the types of faces I love to paint. I often photograph people I find interesting, and I then get to translate their pictures onto a canvas. True emotions are what inspire me and my art,” he explains. His rendition of eniGma’s cover with May El Ghety, Mariam El-Khosht and Hend Abdelhalim at our Covers Reimagined event last year is an example of his hyper-realism style.

Isaac has participated in many exhibitions already. He still remembers how surreal it felt the very first time a painting of his was displayed in an exhibition. “Early in my career, I applied to be a part of an exhibition and was asked to submit two paintings. They never got back to tell me if I was accepted or not. So, I went to the exhibition’s opening day thinking that I wasn’t accepted. It turned out that I was accepted after all. It was such a surreal moment for me to see a painting of mine on display! I even got feedback from people who thought that it was a photograph and not an actual painting!” he exclaims enthusiastically.

One of his favourite paintings is one of an Egyptian man from upper Egypt, that he came across the street one day in Cairo. Isaac was enamoured with the young man’s demeanour and his confidence while walking around in a turbon and a galabiyah. While Isaac could see confidence in the way the man conducted himself, he could also see insecurity. So he got to painting. “I took a picture of him without him noticing and immediately got to painting him. I adore people, especially strangers, who just provoke me to paint.

Admirers of Isaac’s art grew and eventually, Mina Isaac became a household name in the art scene in Egypt, particularly for his pieces commissioned by clients. Seven years ago, he moved from his hometown of Alexandria to Cairo to teach art at a couple of Diwan bookstore branches. He continues to give art classes as he pursues his own artistic projects. “I started giving art lessons around seven years ago when I first moved to Cairo. I found that using the knowledge that I have about art, through my many years of studying art history and all its different schools was very interesting. I love helping people achieve thier goals in art and help them execute visions that they have in mind.”

While Isaac has reached heights with his art that he never imagined, he never stopped thinking about the dream he always had: to sing. Through the years, he had felt that the timing was never right to kick off his music career. But the time to realise that dream seems to have finally come.

Isaac just released his debut single called El Lahza Di (This Moment), a song about the blissful first few moments of a new romantic relationship. “I’ve been working on this song for a while and I’m so excited for it to be available to the world to listen to. I’ve waited a very long time to make music and I feel like I’m finally able to satisfy myself artistically in all the fields that I love. This song is very special because I got to work with some very talented vocal producers and mixers. We’ve been working very hard on this song and I love the tone of it and how it’s a blend of a lot of genres,” he enthuses.

And he is already planning his next single. As for the type of music he wants to produce, Isaac insists he doesn’t want to be boxed in. “I want to try my hand at every genre because I listen to everything. My debut single leans more towards pop, but I want to incorporate every genre in my music,” he explains.

Looking ahead, Isaac especially wants to create a hybrid between painting and music. Right now, he’s keeping them separate so people can get to know him as a singer. But at some point, he wants to mix the two art forms. “I want to create a painting based on my music, pieces that go along with the songs,” he explains, adding, “While I’m focusing more on music right now, I’m never going to stop painting. I want people to know and love both sides of me!”