We sit down with Nourhanne Helmy, whose 'Art Within Souls' exhibition is ongoing until December 7 at Alchemy, showcasing her works that tread the ground between the phantasmagorical and the grotesque.
The latest in Alchemy's ongoing legacy of providing its regulars with some of the city's most exciting budding artists' work is Nourhanne Helmy's 'Art Within Souls' exhibition, which kicked off last Saturday. Showcasing a selection of works that focuses on women and her role in both Egyptian society and society as a whole, Helmy's style can best be described as a blend between the abstract, the surreal and the grotesque.
We sat down with the artist to talk to her about the collection, as well as her struggles in art and life in general.
Tell us about yourself and your background. How did you get into art?
I study mass communication. I started painting since I was a kid but it was never my go-to thing because I had passion for it and I had a concept that I don’t want the thing that I love to be my career because I don’t want to do it under pressure. And then by the time I studied five years of mass communication I realized I don’t function unless I love the thing Im doing. It's not going anywhere. I'm just waiting to graduate and to start my career as an artist.
Explain the aesthetic behind your art.
I did an art workshop in Minnesota which helped me figure out what genre of art that I want to be doing. At the beginning I was kind of lost. I started drawing portraits and then landscapes and then still life and all that and I never found my thing until I took the workshop. My main aesthetic in art simply is the ugly side of art. It's not the pretty, popular side of art, like the ladies and the cigarettes. It's not like that at all. It’s more about the conflict inside the person. Like I try to answer my curiousity and to lead my questions and confusion about life through my art. They answer my questions actually.
What inspires your work?
Sometimes I just get an inspiration from something so random that you would never ever imagine. Like, I would be sitting with someone and their driver comes by and says something and I just feel like it. Inspiration for me is really easy [to find]. I find inspiration everywhere. But the most important process was when I had a huge psychological breakdown because of all the studying and the country and revolution and everything. So I started not making art. I kept storing energy and collecting inspiration. Mainly, it comes from personal experiences with people and the questions I have for life. So I just focus on one thing and then I have a collection. Sometime I suddenly get out my sketchbook. I feel like I need to get something out right now. Im not a good writer at all, I'm not good with words. So when I feel like wanna say something, I just get out the sketchbook and do it. And trust me those pieces are better than the pieces I plan in advance. It's more spontaneous. It's genuine. It has this struggle, so its shows. It's not planned by any means.
How would you describe your art?
I say my art feels like distorted reality. It always does, because again it comes from the confusion and the culture and the differences and the heartbreaks. All the confusion you have from the smallest bits. Every single thing has a glitch in it. Nothing is perfectly fine. Nothing is perfectly clear. So, unlike other artists who look at the good part, the seemingly nice part, I try to look at the fault inside and try to picture it. I try for it to not look as ugly, but it shows.
How did this exhibition come about?
That came so randomly. I didn't have a plan for this. I had a Facebook page recently so someone that works here suggested my art to Alchemy and they talked to me. I didn’t have time to make a collection but I was lucky because this was a collection that I was working on because I sell my art online and I’m opening my gallery next year hopefully. The experience was really nice. I never had an exhibition in Egypt. I had a mini-exhibition in Minnesota. It wasn’t an official thing. It was in my yard with my friends and colleagues. This is my first official thing here in Egypt.
What's your plan for the future?
I'm graduating this semester. Once I’m done I’m going to an art school in New York. I’m taking a course which is going to last for 6 months, and I'm participating in a workshop there afterwards, and then I plan to come here and start my gallery.
What is your approach to art?
Well, my work is not just paintings, it's mainly collage art. Collage art is mainly cutting and painting. It started since Picasso, but they were never good at it because they didn’t have photoshop, so it was kind of limited for them. Collage art is now growing and is used nowadays for pop art. I'm taking the mixture between collage and pop art and doing it my way and adding this darker side to it. I love working with collage. You have reality and then you kind of reshape it on your own.
What was the aim behind this collection?
Most of my collection focuses on the struggle between the female figure and the society, not only in Egypt. Some of my pieces have little kids who are females and holding cigarettes. That’s typically how kids are affected by the models and all that.
You can catch Nourhanne's exhibition at Alchemy until the end of October.