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The Other Side of Hassan Hassan

While Hassan Hassan isn't exactly new to the art scene, we've just got round to interviewing the man who's graced us with his words here at CairoScene. This time we're talking about his art, which is now available for sale on Cirqy.com.

Hassan Hassan is no stranger to CairoScene. For over a year now, he’s been plying us with wit, words and wonderful observations of living in Cairo as a 20something. However, his column – filled with sarcasm, self-deprecation and sass – is  only part of the story. The other side of Hassan is his art. With a roster of exhibitions, a plethora of styles and a lot of colour, he’s become Egypt’s very own Pop-Artist-in-Residence, mixing inspiration from music, television and our gaudy Cairo existence with fine technique, striking imagery and an eye for sex appeal. We sit him down at the Drawing Board to explore his artistic side but we just got more sarcasm, self-deprecation and sass. At least we tried…

Disclaimer: Since Hassan Hassan has a rather close relationship with CairoScene, he was given the opportunity to edit the ‘douchiness’ out of his interview. He came off as kind of an asshole and since Managing Editor Dalia Awad knows this is not true, she gave him the chance to edit. Also, she didn’t feel like doing it since she was getting her hair done at Kérastase

You’re a man of many talents. Would you consider yourself primarily a writer, an artist, a social media maven or a tall person?

A tall person.

At what point did you realise you were a tall person?

When I was 11. They always made me stand in the back and the middle of class pictures.

If I were to tell you have to give up writing or art, which would you choose?

Writing. Art comes easier.

Have you ever had a conversation with your mother about there being one too many Hassans in your name?

Yeah. My cousin was born a month before me and they named him Omar, which was supposed to be my name. My back up name was supposed to be Farouk but my cousin stole that as well. Then my mom was all like Hassan, and my aunt had some contention or other, so I have a double name because my mom was proving a point and couldn’t be bothered to think of other names.

If you were to have a child and give him a double name as well, what would it be?

Hassan, so he could be a triple threat.

How would you describe your artistic style?

I think I’d describe it as pop art. That’s the best way to classify it. I don’t like to label things because that limits you.

Who do you get inspiration from?

My main inspiration comes from an obsession with cartoons when I was younger. All I did when I was a kid was watch cartoons and read comics; I loved Archie Comics and always copied them. I was also obsessed with the Little Mermaid.

What’s your favourite song from Little Mermaid?

Poor Unfortunate Souls.

Is Ursula your favourite character then?

Character or villain?

Character.

Ariel is my favourite. Her hair was amazing.

Would you say that Ariel uses Kérastase products?

Probably, yes, because they’re water-resistant.

Would you ever think of making your own comic?

I’d probably do a graphic novel but I don’t think you should undertake any kind of book before you’re 30.

Would you collaborate with someone? Like they’d do the story and you’d do the graphics.

Yes, but it depends on the story and the person. It’s super time consuming so it would have to be super comfortable with them.

What’s the most annoying question people ask you?

Where do you get your inspiration? And how long did it take to make that?

Ok, how long did it take?

It depends. The scale makes a difference. I don’t really think the time it takes me makes a difference as long as the outcome is good. You can do something in six weeks that’s brilliant and something in two minutes that’s also brilliant. 

Is there a piece that means more to you than any other?

No. I generally try not to form an attachment because then you keep trying to replicate and get stuck in a rut.

Do you like your art?

Some of them I like more than others.

Do you start with the content when you draw or do you just let the canvas speak to you?

Number 1: what would a canvas say to me? Number 2: I just sit there and draw. Everybody asks if there is a formula but at the end of the day it’s just one of the things that just happens, like eating or walking. One thing though – and I learnt this from Beyonce’s documentary – is you have to keep going back and looking at your stuff, sit there and think of how you’re going to progress. That’s the most important part of the process; looking back at what I have done and how can I do it better.

Do you have a favourite tool?

Pencils. I really like them. I’m not a big fan of colour but people love colour. I’m much more monochrome.

How about local artists? Is there anyone you respect from the local scene?

Depends from what era. There’s Mahmoud Saeed because his style is very distinctive. George Bahgoury I love, because you can tell it’s him immediately. That’s my problem with art these days; I think it’s become less about style and more about making a statement. I’m a big believer in less substance, more style.

Would you ever do graffiti?

No, I wouldn’t ever want to get arrested. Plus I’m not very good at massive pieces.

Why do you draw yourself in most of your art pieces?

I don’t think I do. But then it’s coming from a personal space and is very much me. When I was teaching in the Fashion Studio my main tip was look to yourself and look at your body. At the end of the day, it’s easier to get proportions right when you have an immediate reference. 

Which part of the body is toughest to draw?

Hands and feet.

Why are all the women in your drawing sharameet?

I don’t think they’re sharameet. They’re just free spirits.

Have you thought of drawing Hentai?

Yes. But proportions of penises and vaginas are tricky – especially when you don’t have a vagina for immediate reference. 

Do you think you’re underrated?

No. For you to be underrated you have to be willing to go out there. I’ve been very careful in the things I choose to do with my art. I’m not underrated because I haven’t really decided what the best thing to do is yet. This is a good thing though, because if nothing else I keep getting better.

You seem to purposely not push yourself.

I’ve realised the more natural and organic you let things be the better the finished product is. The first exhibition was great because I had two years worth of art pieces to decide from so I was very comfortable with everything I displayed. None of the pieces were meant for sale or for an exhibition. The second one I had just quit my job so I kind of forced myself to draw 20 pieces and it wasn’t successful as far as having a theme of making it into a show I was proud of. I’d rather have two years worth of time to do an exhibition that I’m comfortable with and with pieces that I love/kind of like. The most important thing for me is for me to be comfortable with it. It’s not worth it to do something just to say you did something if you’re not satisfied with the finished product.

Would you ever expand into fashion design?

I don’t want to say no or yes. I would love to design things. Like coasters and iPhone covers and fun things that will add a little pop of fun to your day. I would go into fashion, but I’d have to really be in control with the quality. Egypt is super fickle in that sense. But fashion is a major thing of mine; magazines, pictures, clothes, the feelings they give. So if I ever put my name to a fashion line it would have to be perfect.

What’s a fashion trend you’d never use?

None. I think fashion is very representative of the time it’s in and all these things are important. Who am I to say how people represent themselves. When it becomes a gimmick or the trend never ends, like those neon colors everybody wears, that’s when I take issue; overkill.

How do you price your art?

Pricing is generally one of those things I want to kill myself with. I mean, how do you value it? It’s really the hardest thing because half of it is this is so natural to me how dare I think I can sell it and the other half is all like no one do it like you do. So it’s another existential crisis to plow through. 

What do you think of graffiti artists who just write or draw something on a big canvas and sell it for 10, 000 EGP?

More power to them. I think it’s an important part of it. I wouldn’t buy them but you can’t fault it. Art, like everything else, has become a trend. If you can sell your art for that much then good for you. Personally, longevity would be better for me.

If you could have your pictures hanging on anyone wall, whose would it be?

I really want to say Beyonce. I’d love that. In her guest bathroom; I love when people hang things in the bathroom.

Is there someone you’d never have your painting hung in their house?

No. Money doesn’t discriminate.

What’s the most you’ve sold one of your paintings for?

10,000 EGP

Why are you still in Egypt?

I only have an Egyptian passport. Visa processes are too strenuous. Also, money is an issue. I don’t think I want to be proper poor in civilisation. There are so many things I’d want to buy.

Most of your art has very sad people. Do you ever draw from happy place?

Smiling people are really hard to draw. All those teeth. 

Do you see yourself structuring the art scene in Egypt?

No. I’m interested in every project I’m in but I’m not interested in the behind-the-scenes thing. The emails and the organszation and the grunt work. That’s why I didn’t carry on being a freelance artist. Also because there is no industry. If you’re talking about fashion, art or magazine industries where everything is dependent on the other in order for them to function, it doesn’t exist in Egypt.

Do you show publications your portfolio?

Yes, very often. The problem is, it’s a vicious cycle. If you’re talking about New York or Paris or London there are thousands if not millions of people doing what I’m doing, if not better. So why would they go through the effort of using my art when they have illustrators and artists over there? I’ve sent them things but they haven’t replied. It’s a double-edge sword because I’m special in Egypt but I’m not abroad.

So do you not believe in yourself?

I mean, they haven’t responded to my emails.

Would you hire a manager?

I can’t afford a manager.

Would you hire a publicist?

Hopefully at some point I’ll have an entourage. 

For more of Hassan Hassan's art, check out his Facebook fan page here. To purchase your very own Hassan Hassan original, visit his Cirqy store here


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