Mohamed Khaled Omran

Breaking Barriers in Art

Talented visual artist Mohamed Khaled Omran, who teaches at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Cairo University, participated in eniGma’s Covers Reimagined event last June with a unique rendition of Hend Sabry’s iconic cover. eniGma’s Rawya Lamei caught up with the young artist to find out more about his art and what inspires his unique style.

How did you get into visual arts?
I’ve always liked to draw since I was a kid. It remained a hobby until I began my studies at the Faculty of Fine Arts at university. Since then, I started to branch out into various artistic media. Lately, I’ve settled for more traditional art forms like painting and sculpting as opposed to digital arts.

What is your creative process like?
There isn’t much of a process. Most of the time I start with an idea, and I build from there by doing a few sketches. Sometimes I have a clear idea of what I want to do, so I start to work on it immediately. When it comes to sculpting, I start with no sketches at all and just begin working. But it’s different if I am preparing a piece for an exhibition with a particular theme. In such a case, I need an initial concept. Often, I also just want to try something out, without any idea as to what I want to get out of it. I just want to see where it will take me. So really there is no rule to my work process.

If you get a creative block, how do you overcome it?
When I was a fresh graduate, I would sometimes think that I’m either not in the mood to work on a given day or that I have no inspiration. But lately, I got into the mindset that my art is part of my daily routine, something that I must get done. If I have an idea on my mind then that’s great, but otherwise, I’ll get some sketches done, or watch some of the artists that I love and see how they get their work done, as a visual exercise. I make it a point to either get some sort of work or studying done. Eventually, it becomes something spontaneous, no matter how tired I am. I really don’t allow any space for creative blocks.

Do you have a designated studio area only for your art?
Initially, I used to work at home. But then I decided that was not the best idea since I needed more space. So, over the years, I expanded my working space until I finally had my own studio away from all the noise at home. Having a studio puts you in a more artistic mood. I go to my studio and eventually that space puts me in a mood to work.

Much of your work has a lot of animals, why is that?
I love to play around with vague and fantastic ideas and see where they go. Animals in general are a crucial aspect of my work. I feel I can express more with animals than with traditional portraits, especially since I like to do new things. Animals are rich in symbolism. I imagine certain animals as parallel to certain characters. In one of my collections, given that monkeys’ anatomy is like the human anatomy, it made sense to have them mimic human tasks. I wanted to branch out into a style that is more comedic and fantastic, as though these monkeys lived in a world where there are no humans and where they take on human tasks and a human lifestyle.

What drew you to the neon colour palette in one of your collections?
The colour palette that I use really depends on the mood that I’m in. In general, I like to be versatile. Neon colours were a palette that I hadn’t really used before. I felt that it went very well with the fantastic theme that I was going for in one of my collections. Its romantic and dream-like feel suited the theme of that collection well.

Is there a particular artist or movement that inspires you most?
There’s a mix of different artists that I admire, rather than a particular movement or artist. I make it a point not to have my attention drawn to a particular style, to be more versatile. In general, in all forms of art, there are no really new ideas. We all simply revolve around the same ideas, and every artist tries to portray them in his own unique way. So really, it’s about playing with these differences in style. I play with these differences and create something unique every time, and my work does not look like that of any other artist.

How do you get your work out there? Exhibitions or social media?
In Egypt, exhibitions are the more traditional and practical way to reach a wide audience. But social media presence is also important, and I try to expand my social media presence since this medium is growing. But there are many ways to get your work out there. I’ve submitted my work on online open calls for exhibitions and I’ve also submitted my work in competitions, including for the first round in Farouk Hosny’s competition. I met Ahmed Dabaa, the owner of Ubuntu Gallery there too, and we agreed to collaborate on several exhibitions, including the 1-54 exhibition in London. So, there are many ways to get your work out there.

What are your plans going forward?
As I mentioned before, I’m trying to expand my presence on social media. Lately, I’ve begun to focus on having a social media campaign for each exhibition and having some sort of online gallery that is my own. This coming year I won’t be working with a particular gallery but will rather be a free agent. I will try different means to get my work out there, be it Instagram, TikTok or Behance Art Station, which is an online art gallery. In the long term, besides trying to reach a wider audience, I will also develop my skillset and try new things.