Young, fresh and dedicated are three words that easily describe Mohamed Elbehiry, a gifted artist on the horizon that has a lot to say about the various Egyptian communities through an unexpected lens. Through dreamlike style and mysticism, he launches his characters into a fantastical world. With absolute tenacity and determination, the artist has crafted a solid path for himself. eniGma’s Rana Attia sat down with Elbehairy to discuss everything from his craft to inspirations to his upcoming projects.
Initially from Tanta, twenty-nine-year-old artist, Mohamed Elbehairy, moved to Alexandria to pursue both his BA and MFA in Fine Arts from Alexandria University. While at first, his parents disapproved of the idea of him pursuing art as it typically may seem like a hobby and not a life goal, they eventually supported the idea. “They wanted me to be a doctor or something else that’s scientific, like any parents from a province like Tanta but I loved art so much that I just had to follow my passion,” he says. Eventually, his parents came around and supported his decision once he truly began shining as an artist. Elbehairy recently defended his master’s thesis and is on his way to becoming a PhD candidate.
The artist’s field of interest and inspiration lies within the surrealist technique, inspired by artists such as Max Ernst and Salvador Dalí who were known for placing a character or object into a fairytale world. Elbehairy exudes a similar style through his usage of warm gradients and calming landscapes like the ocean and skies and then throwing his characters into this surreal setting that is thought-provoking. “I like to highlight simple Egyptians, people from diverse backgrounds. And the common thread between those people is that you would see them flying, riding a turtle or horse mid-air. They all have this sense of ease and surrealism to them,” he explains. Elbehairy examines this image of people from various socio-economic backgrounds all while creating a dream-like state. “My favourite method to translate this concept is through oil paintings. However, from time to time, I like to experiment with collages and other mixed media formats. But I always come back to oil paintings as it fits my surrealist mode, perfectly,” he elaborates.
Elbehairy goes on to share his educational background. Having received his BA in Fine Arts back in 2016, his graduation project was based on the idea of the ocean and everything that is remotely representative of it. Dripping with details of water and freedom, the artist’s core inspiration was Alexandria. “Alexandria was my muse. The scenic streets and landscapes were the driving force of this project. All executed through a surrealist perspective, I transported my creations to an environment where they interact with animals and creatures such as horses but the notion of Alexandria was still the centre of the pieces,” he says.
Following his BA, the artist went on to pursue an MFA with his thesis centring around Max Ernst and an analysis of his surrealistic paintings. Though he is currently working towards a PhD while being a TA, Elbehairy doesn’t see the path of education as the only direction to becoming an artist. “Aspiring artists don’t necessarily need a proper education in order to achieve that dream, they can make up for that by reading a lot. Reading is important, reading about the history of art, particularly the areas they’re looking to become an expert in,” he advises. As the artist goes on, he shares specific advice he offers his students. “I always tell them to be patient with their work, to not rush the creative process. It is also crucial that they really examine who they are as an artist. They shouldn’t try to fit themselves in a specific box. It’s okay to experiment and love different mediums as well as to be passionate about various subjects. That’s how you figure out yourself as an artist, through trial and error,” Elbehairy details.
Most recently, Elbehairy has participated at the Enigma’s Covers Reimagined event by bringing our Asser Yassin cover to life. Through the addition of clouds, hovering over the magazine’s logo and integration of warm tones such as light blue and greens, especially the flying horses, the artist has created a surreal, dream-like state. Elbehairy proceeds to talk about his experience at the event, “I was really happy to participate in this event, thanks to Art Talks as they provided an opportunity for the worlds of art and entertainment to collide and work together. It was also great to paint an actor such as Asser Yassin, the incorporation of horses which I often paint, in this specific instance was partly due to the actor’s own love for them,” he shares.
Moreover, the artist acknowledges the current art scene and the difference between Egyptian and international artists. “While I do see that the art scene is flourishing due to there no longer being a stigma against people dedicating their lives to it, starting with an education, in addition to a lot more resources offered at their disposal. Social media and art galleries have become a lot stronger unlike before,” he says. Even though a lot of progress has happened within the last couple of years in the art scene, there is still room for growth. “While all of this is great, unfortunately, we still need to do better. It is just not simple to find an artist online and when you do, the photos are not in the best quality; so, they don’t tend to represent the artist’s best work,” he highlights.
In terms of upcoming projects, Elbehairy details that he will be working on a show hosted by Art Talks. The show will focus on what he does best, surreal art. “I am currently fascinated with skies, so it’s been an interesting journey and challenge to paint that specific landscape over and over yet somehow, differently. This forthcoming show will still centre around diverse Egyptians but it will be paying special attention to the idea of skies,” he shares. The artist mentions that travelling can be a great escape and inspiration for those seeking it. Elbehairy is not only an artist but a mentor and he is one to be on the lookout for, for he contains an immeasurable amount of talent.