De­sign Tal­ent

Maryam Ghanem: Cap­tur­ing the Spirit of a City in Dis­ar­ray

ArabAd - - CONTENTS -

Maryam Ghanem stud­ied ar­chi­tec­ture only to find her call­ing and voice in cre­at­ing col­lage pieces that re­flect the beauty and chaos in­her­ent of a city that has more to of­fer than meets the eye. Arabad wanted to learn more about this young artist’s work and what fol­lows is an ex­clu­sive be­hind the scenes process that even­tu­ally sees her works into fruition.

Could you tell us a lit­tle bit about your­self and how you got into the de­sign/illustration world?

I was born in Kuwait in 1991 to a Le­banese fam­ily from a south­ern vil­lage called Ay­nata, known for be­ing the cul­tural “Light­house” of south Le­banon in pre­vi­ous cen­turies. Cur­rently, I live in Beirut and started work­ing as a free­lance ar­chi­tect and artist af­ter grad­u­at­ing from Beirut Arab Univer­sity. Al­though I have been cre­ative since I was a child, it took me many years to lis­ten to my cre­ative soul. In fact, I didn’t start call­ing my­self an artist, or shar­ing my art with the world un­til 2011.

You en­ter Beirut through your soul, not your eyes… through her peo­ple, not her streets...

How would you de­scribe your de­sign style?

I fo­cus on mixed me­dia col­lage. My most elab­o­rate paint­ings have mul­ti­tude of lay­ers of col­lage. When you first look at them, you won’t nec­es­sar­ily no­tice them be­cause I tend to blend it all to­gether with paint, pas­tels, Ara­bic pat­terns and words (song lyrics and po­etry).

How did the idea of us­ing song lyrics and po­etry come to be?

Through­out his­tory, there was a strong re­la­tion­ship be­tween mu­sic and art. Per­son­ally I find th­ese types of lyrics and po­etry in har­mony with my mixed me­dia col­lage; in a sense I fo­cus on the whole icon merg­ing

the lyrics with the per­sonal side of the icon. So, all the col­lage el­e­ments I use in a paint­ing are rel­e­vant to the story I am try­ing to tell. They act as clues, like a sort of vis­ual lex­i­cal field. Sto­ry­telling is a very im­por­tant as­pect of my art.

Could you tell us a lit­tle bit about your de­sign process?

I don’t re­ally have a process, not yet at least. Some­times I will “see” or dream an im­age that I will quickly try to cap­ture in a small sketch. Other times I just start col­lag­ing pho­tos and lyrics and fol­low where it leads me. When I feel stressed, I turn on the mu­sic, which I find it so re­lax­ing. I’ve al­ways been a very messy girl and I have fi­nally come to ac­cept it and just em­brace the messi­ness.

Be­sides illustration, what are you pas­sion­ate about and how does it feed into your work?

Ar­chi­tec­ture is my pas­sion. It taught me how to per­ceive the right artis­tic pro­por­tion and how to cre­ate the ap­pro­pri­ate com­po­si­tion of shapes. It also de­vel­oped my draw­ing skills. In ad­di­tion, mu­sic has an es­sen­tial role, as well as clas­si­cal movies, love sto­ries and myths; you can find a mix of all th­ese in ev­ery paint­ing I cre­ate.

Beirut is a no­to­ri­ously cool hub in the cre­ative com­mu­nity – how would you say life in the city has in­flu­enced your work?

Beirut is a city of con­trasts and di­ver­si­ties. It was well known as a cen­tre of arts and artists in the Mid­dle East. Nowa­days, Beirut still shines in its own way, in ev­ery street and on ev­ery side­walk of the city you can find a new story that in­spires ev­ery ta­lented per­son. The thing with Beirut is that it is a city sit­u­ated be­tween free­dom and chaos; you en­ter Beirut through your soul, not your eyes… through her peo­ple, not her streets.

What do you en­joy most about your job?

The spirit of Beirut that I taste when col­lag­ing a paint­ing is the most re­in­forc­ing power for me to keep go­ing. It is just so much fun! I search for places where I find my ob­jects “lit­tle trea­sures” like: old film posters, stamps, old post­cards, rare pho­to­graphs... etc. I love to give them a new life a new story and be­gin­ning, and I do that through art. What are you cur­rently fas­ci­nated by and how is it feed­ing into your work? Cur­rently, what is hap­pen­ing in the streets and the rev­o­lu­tion­ary spirit in the Le­banese youth is keep­ing me mo­ti­vated and gives me in­spi­ra­tion. In ev­ery shout, protest, de­bate or con­ver­sa­tion I find an idea for a new paint­ing.

What would you say is your strong­est skill?

Cre­at­ing a story through mixed me­dia col­lage by fol­low­ing this strat­egy “what’s hid­den is equally im­por­tant as what is vis­i­ble”. For ex­am­ple when I paint Naji Al-ali (Pales­tinian car­i­ca­tur­ist), I paint Han­dala (his main char­ac­ter) be­hind him, or col­lage a map of Pales­tine with some orange and olive trees. Th­ese el­e­ments may be al­most in­vis­i­ble to the viewer, but it’s there and it af­fects the rest of the paint­ing. This is how I com­plete the idea and tell my story.

What’s the next ex­cit­ing you’re work­ing on?

I have been work­ing on an on­line shop that goes be­yond my paint­ings. A fresh coloured fur­ni­ture line will be one of the sur­prises on my new web­site that in­ter­est the young gen­er­a­tion. It will fea­ture tens of hand­made pieces that rep­re­sent the civ­i­liza­tion that me and hun­dreds of thou­sands of Arab artists, nov­el­ists and po­ets are striv­ing to pro­tect in this big chaos.

Maryam Ghanem

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