A Path Toward Self Expression

Passionate about painting since childhood, Shady Hamed first studied business at university then went on to earn a diploma in modern art from none other than MoMA, the renowned Museum of Modern Art in New York. It’s now been ten years since he began pursuing art professionally and participating regularly in exhibitions in Egypt’s top galleries. Hamed also participated in eniGma’s Covers Reimagined event in June of 2021 with a beautiful rendition of Nelly Karim’s cover. eniGma’s Rawya Lamei got the chance to chat with the talented artist about his unconventional journey and his unrelenting passion for art. Here are some excerpts from their conversation.

How did your journey with art begin?
It started from childhood; I used to love to draw as a kid. I’ve always had difficulty expressing my feelings with words. So I tried to find more creative ways to express myself, and found that was the easiest, the most familiar and the most spontaneous thing for me. As for choosing art as a professional career, I really didn’t quite choose it. It just happened that art was the only medium that I truly felt comfortable in. After participating in many exhibitions at art galleries, people became familiar with my work and I just found myself in that world! It happened so spontaneously, and I absolutely love it.

Tell us about your style and technique.
I like to combine classical and modern techniques and to generally give my artwork a classical shape. When it comes to background and colours, I use a more modern style on the canvas. For a while, I felt very lost and I struggled to find a way to put what’s on my mind onto the canvas. I would look for inspiration in everything, even the most banal things. In my search, I found myself especially inspired by birds. Birds have been a source of inspiration for mankind throughout history, and remain symbolic to this day. I decided to take this ancient symbol and give it a modern twist.

What do birds symbolise to you?
To me birds symbolise freedom through their ability to fly. We look up at them in awe as they take-off and soar across vast distances. It’s as though nothing can stand in their way. They inspire you to look further in the distance. I feel compelled to draw birds because of what they symbolise to me.

What is the significance of the extensive use of the colour blue in your work ?
Personally, I adore the colour blue. Since I am Alexandrian, I am constantly surrounded by blue, the blue of the sky as well as that of the sea. Blue is the most comfortable colour to me. It calms me down, and it is the closest and dearest colour to my heart. I frequently pair it with yellow. Blue and yellow complement each other well, creating a sharp contrast when paired. Yellow truly brings out blue better than any other colour.

What reaction do you like your work to elicit in people?
I absolutely love when people understand what my paintings are trying to convey. Each painting I create is done with a very specific intention and tackles a particular topic. It fills me with joy when I see people not simply liking how the painting looks, but truly understanding what I was trying to convey.

Is there a specific artist or movement that draws you?
I am especially drawn to postmodern art which is a movement that started just a few decades ago and is ongoing. In this category of postmodern art, rather than fitting a particular theme or overarching shape, each work is unique, with its own style, its own shape, and its own message. Basically, it’s all about bringing something new to the table, which is very much a part of the world we live in these days. Things change by the day. Nothing stays the same, and there’s something new every day. Personally, I really like to bring something new to the table since it’s truly one of the things that helps art evolve and makes it richer. That’s why I’m so drawn to postmodernism.

What do you think about social commentary through art? How do you think it’s received?
As an artist, you really want your work to turn out great, to be worth remembering and not to be just another frame at a gallery. It can be very difficult to convey exactly what is on your mind in a way that is understandable to your audience, not just something that you alone understand. You shouldn’t care if it’s received negatively. These are my emotions and my intentions which I am conveying in my art. You can either take it or leave it, regardless of what you think about the depth of what’s on the canvas. So, I really don’t care much about criticism.

Tell us about Bab Ashra, which you founded.
I wanted to help Fine Arts graduates who don’t quite know what to do, or how to start their career. The idea of Bab Ashra, which I founded in 2010, was to build a place that would allow them to bring their ideas to fruition and present them to the public. It’s all about transferring knowledge and experience from one generation to another.

How has your experience been in showing your own art?
It’s been amazing to hear feedback from big artists. For example, it was extremely encouraging for me and a big confidence boost when I participated in Farouk Hosny’s Foundation. I’ve also worked with galleries like TAM Gallery and ArtTalks, and they are places that I absolutely love. Working with them is a pleasure because everyone there genuinely appreciates art.

How was the process of turning the cover of Nelly Karim into something that’s your own?
It was challenging, yet it was an absolute pleasure for me. It was exciting for me to try to do something new, to give my personal twist to an artwork that’s already there, to recreate it in my own style. When I was told about the Covers Reimagined event, I instantly chose to do Nelly Karim without a second thought, since I absolutely love her. I would have loved for her to be there and to get the chance to meet her.

What are some plans that you have for the future?
I am working on my new collection, which will include different colours and incorporate more elements of Egyptian art.