Mohamed Banawy (Egypt, 1977): what was your course of study, painting, sculpture? How did you come to discover the mosaic?
I was born in Al-Sharkia-Egypt in 1977. My father was an Art teacher in our country and he was a caricature artist as well. Since I was a child, I used to watch him while painting people and landscapes; this made my curiosity to use these pens and colors. Actually, he was my first teacher. I have joined the Faculty of the Fine Arts-Helwan University in 1995 and in my preliminary year in college, I have studied painting and sculpture and in my first two years, I have joined the Painting Section where I have learnt how to use oil painting , water and pastel colors through painting people and landscapes of the region of Old Egypt and some still life. Then I have joined the Section of the Mural Painting in my last two years and I have studied the Mural designs, Mosaic and Stained Glass. In this period, I was really fond of mosaic especially in my Graduation Project when I designed a huge work by mosaic that expressed the Great Egyptian Civilization. I had the Bachelor in Mural Art in 2000 with Excellency and was the top of my class, then I was appointed as a Lecturer in my Faculty in 2001.
In 2005, I have granted the Creativity State Prize (Rome Prize for Creativity) in mural painting specialized in fresco 2005. It is a prize that is given by the Egyptian Government for the innovative in the Artistic fields and it is the right to dwell in Rome-Italy for 15 months at the Egyptian Academy for Arts there. During this period, I knew a lot about the culture and The Italian Arts by visiting the famous museums in Rome, Florence, Venice, Pisa, Ravenna and etc.
In fact, this period was my real starting point to work in mosaic with new and different perspectives. Hence, I started to feel that as if I am playing with the mosaic parts; how to arrange, gather and separate them, thinking in their soft and scratchy textures, the light effects and many other artistic values.
Clay, glaze fragments and especially stones cut in the shape of square, or mosaic pieces. I find your works very interesting and original, in particular the series “Abstract” and “City”, because they don’t want to be painting or sculpture but simply mosaic. They seem visions of territory taken from a distance, almost out of a plane. Can you explain your way of interpreting the mosaic?
The Mud is the secret of life and its eternity, being one of the basic elements of Creation… from Mud, not only Mankind is created, but everything is as well… When I am forming units of Mosaic Mud, I feel with warmth and as if I am a part and parcel of this great Universe; these units have the Great Egyptian Heritage.
Actually, I can see the whole world and feel it, once my eyes are falling on a huge mosaic panel, that was formed unconsciously, with no intention at all; in which all the creatures played a role. Two of these creatures are the Goodness that builds the cities and the Evil that destroys them. As when we build a house or implant a tree or when we have a demonstration, we do put a piece or some stones to form this huge panel. Same as when we destroy a house, we do participate in a particular change in its texture by applying some different tentacles and spaces that should happen as they are destined to be there. That’s why I see the world through a mosaic panel where its features are keep on changing since the Universe has been created and until Resurrection.
I am fond of high places so much and I am enjoying watching the cities from above or from an airplane. During my travelling, these shots and scenes that I used to watch above from a plane are stuck into my head. That was the main reason behind applying these epic scenes in my work. Also, most of these small crowded units that are spread besides or inside the big mosaic ones are always expressing the scenes of the overstock population in some poor districts that is found besides the classy ones. Every unit is in fact a person, a car, a house or a factory, etc.
There is a special technique that I am using in the Abstract Paintings which is emptying the stones and the ceramic that are looking very smooth and soft in order to substitute them by some scratchy stones; keeping in mind; inserting them with different drifts, colors and textures… In fact, I have inspired this technique from the architectural restoration that I have seen once in Pisa-Italy where they were restoring an entire house from the outside, with regard to keep some small spaces that can show the stones used in the process. These stones were really amazing especially when the sun light was falling on them.
During the International Festival of Contemporary Mosaic of Ravenna in 2009 and 2011, your work (a sculpture mosaic) was exhibited in 2009 and there were also other Egyptian artists, for example Nermine Al-Masry, Safaa Abd El Salam and Mona Magdi Kenawy: do you know them? Have you seen any ancient monument of Ravenna? Do you know any contemporary mosaic artist of this town?
Surely, I know those artists especially Nermeen Al-Masry (she is one of the teaching staff at my Faculty). In addition to the artist Mona Magdy Qenawy, whom I met during the Alexandria International Symposium for Sculpture in Natural Materials – Sculptural Mosaic. Also, the artists Ellen Goodwin, Manfrid Hoon and Mohamed Salem.
I had a visit to Ravenna that was back to 2006, but unfortunately, it was very short and I have visited Basilica di Sant’Apollinare Nuovo and San Vitale and Museo d’Arte della Città di Ravenna.
I could not meet the contemporary mosaic artists in Ravenna in person, but, definitely, I am tracking the contemporary mosaic movement through their work.
Your country is in a time of great change. Do you think that all this can affect your work? What are your plans for the future?
My work Douar Misr (Tahrir Square) , it’s about the Egyptian Revolution in 25th January 2011, and about Tahrir Square, it shows the Egyptian attitude in the square, starting from its center along with their rush outside it to defend their rights.
I am trying to open new and updated areas for the non-traditional forms of mosaic surfaces, which based on a study of the artistic features and technical methods.
My artistic experiment is based on forming the traditional materials, using different rules and systems, in addition to create new forms of mosaic units and I would like to do a special exhibition in Ravenna soon.
Web site: www.banawy.com