He might not call himself an artist, but Italian long-term Cairo resident Qarm Qart's work certainly catches the eye. We speak to the enigmatic man about his stitched-up digital works and what they mean today...
A raging minature bull chasing heels, a Barbie swatting helicopters from the sky, the matrimony of two chickens in the presence of veiled women all find their place within a digital maze manifested from the enigmatic mind of long time Cairo resident Qarm Qart. His recent exhibition at Mashrabia Gallery, entitled, Restart, is a striking array of mixed-media interpretations of modern day zeitgeists that evoke furrowed brows and tilted heads. We speak to the Italian born Carmine Catrolano about his off-beat collages, evolution and becoming a product of this era...
Who are you in your own words?
People know that I studied Arabic and Persian. That I have been in Egypt since 1999. That I teach Italian. That I translated some books from Arabic to Italian. Than I wrote a book in Egyptian 3ammeyya called Masriyyano. What I like to say about myself is what people know. But most of the time I am not sure who I really am.
Why are you called Qarm Qart?
An Italian friend who is very good at neologisms stated to call me this. My real name is Carmine Cartolano. He just took the four letters of my given name and my surname and substituted the Q for the C. He pronounces it like a qaf in Arabic et voilà: Qarm Qart. I like it very much.
Do you think indulging in the biographical information of an artist is relevant to his art or do you think the message is more important?
A human being is a “collage” of past personal experiences. It’s important to know who somebody is and where that person comes from, to know his or her roots, evolution…what that person has lived, says. What a person is, becomes a message in itself and can be expressed through art or through everyday life. I know lots of “artists” who don’t do art. You can see a lot everyday.
What is your message, if you have one?
I am not a messenger. I don’t have a single message. I do live in this era and I think about where and what I live. What is very important to me is to make the world a better place. A place where I can feel like I used to feel when I was six-years old. That poetic, magic, happy world is the world where I’d love children could live.
When and why did you get into digital art?
Through an Italian photographer I had the chance to get closer to art. Since then I decided to focus on photography and use it to recreate my personal world. I like collage, to cut and put paper and pics together. A year ago I started to do it digitally, using Photoshop and a PC.
Animals feature heavily in Restart, do the specific animals each hold certain connotations?
In Darwin’s theory of evolution we (people from this era) constitute a step backward. We are violent, mean, cruel. We are more like beasts then human beings. Animals represent the human beings in my works. Luckily, we have angels and flowers!
Do you have an idea for the whole picture before creating it or is a case of experimenting as you go along?
When I feel the urge to start a new picture, I need to work on it. I need to create something, to pull out of myself what I have inside. Usually I have a general idea. Usually I have ‘visions’ before sleeping. Then I write ‘what I see’ down or I record it on my phone if it happens while I am not home. After that, I go on experimenting and piecing pictures together.
Which artists have you've been influenced by most?
I don’t have an artistic background. I never studied art. I am a ‘product’ of this era, tv, magazines, museum, books, streets. All that I see can be art. Or it can be just trash.
Which artists do you admire here in Egypt?
I like Bahgoury, Adel El-Siwi, Hany Rashed. I love the new young generation. It’s so powerful!
What's the most common reaction your art receives?
People usually smile or laugh. After that they start to analyse, to think, to discover elements and introspect. I want people to smile and think.
Do you feel the reaction expected is part of the artistic process?
I personally don’t think about the reaction while ‘building’ a picture. What happens after the creation process is just something external. If my pictures push the people to think, well this is great.
Any future projects we should look out for?
We are planning to show Restart somewhere else in Egypt. At the moment I am working on some other pictures and at the same time I am revising a new book I wrote. I hope I can finish and publish it soon. I will keep you posted through my site www.qarmqart.com or my page on Facebook.
Restart at Mashrabia Gallery continues until 15th January.