Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 27 May 2019

Digital art is limitless, says Dubai-based artist Samy Selim

Samy Selim's latest work explores themes of displacement and alienation. We find out more about his evocative digital art.
Egyptian artist Samy Selim. Courtesy Samy Salim
Egyptian artist Samy Selim. Courtesy Samy Salim

Philosophy and poetry are motifs in the works by Samy Selim. The Egyptian architect showcases his talent for design and graphics to the diverse range of digital artworks he creates. The 31-year-old has lived in Dubai since 1993, and his finely crafted, eye-catching works fuse a contemporary outlook with traditional sources of inspiration, including poetry and calligraphy.

What is your main purpose as an artist?

My artwork is mostly identified by its philosophical nature and structure, addressing fundamental issues connected to reality, existence, values, reason and mind – though mostly mixing modern vibrancy with traditional elements. My biggest sources of inspiration are feeling, body language and calligraphy.

That’s a broad spectrum of influences – can you explain how they relate to your most recent work, Refugee?

For this work, I was inspired by a poem by Benjamin Zephaniah called We Refugees. The artwork captures the agony of Syrian refugees, the journeys they take, and the loss they experience. I am often inspired by poetry. Another of my works, Distraction is based on a poem by Nizar Qabbani about making life-changing decisions.

Are there other literary references in your work?

Not literal references but I am a believer in the words of Jerzy Kosinski [a Polish-American novelist]. He said: “The principle of true art is not to portray, but to evoke.” When I produce art, my aim is to share it with the world and evoke sentiments and discussions while continuing my creative journey. However, the question I always ask myself is what are the messages people want to put across to me – this is what really drives my artworks.

You are a trained architect, how does that inform your art?

I use structured forms in my work – a skill that is necessary in my professional life. I am always asked to come up with new concepts for my work, so this exercises my inspiration for my art and helps me to continue to explore new areas and techniques. Also, in both my art and my work, I work well under pressure.

Why do you choose to work with digital media?

Since I first started drawing as a child, my hobby developed from using pencils to charcoal and then to watercolours, pen and ink, and eventually to digital art. Digital art is limitless and, as it combines art and technology, the process of creating is much easier. I can draw anywhere, anytime by simply picking up my tablet or smartphone. It is also much less time-consuming compared with traditional art. For instance, I don’t have to clean all my brushes every time I decide to draw. It is all part of our technological revolution.

Your work is exhibited in Kobo Art, a UAE-based online gallery. How did that relationship start and has it helped to raise your profile?

I joined Shan Fazelbhoy, the founder of Kobo Art, two years ago. It is a window for the rest of the world to view my artworks and, yes, it definitely raises my profile as an artist. It provides me with the opportunity to listen to the views of my audience and buyers and, depending on which artworks sell, I can learn what the market is for my work.

Kobo Art are so passionate and dedicated to what they do, as well as to the people they are representing, and I am happy to be part of their gallery. Can you compare the UAE art scene to that in Egypt?

Not really. I think it is unfair to compare the two as they have totally different qualities. In Cairo, you have a countless number of brilliant artists, which is normal since the population of Egypt is more than 90 million and there are lots of places to display art. On the other hand, international exposure is minimal, while in the UAE, it is all about exposure to the world – the country has now become a destination for artists and art collectors.


Updated: August 2, 2016 04:00 AM