Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Ahmed Ibrahim, Mosaic Artist, Tells His Story

When I was a little child and my friends were enjoying playing outside, I found that I preferred to stay indoors with my colors, pencils and paper. I wanted to imagine and create images as beautiful as that of the real world around me.

My mosaic journey started with a visit to the Greco-Roman Museum in Alexandria, Egypt when I was nine years old. I was really fascinated by the way the little tiny pieces of stone (tesserae) came together to create beautiful pieces of art. From there, my obsession with mosaics began and I would soon learn that mosaic was much more than that.

I was born and raised in Cairo, Egypt, the most populous city in Egypt. Growing up, I was surrounded by a rich and diverse culture, which shaped my artistic personality. I was raised in a middle-class family in Cairo. My dad passed away when I was only ten years old. This had a huge impact on my life since my mother had to raise my two sisters and I by herself. I soon learned how strong and wonderful a single mother could be.

My mother has been a great inspiration for how strong and independent a person could be. She was, and still is, my first and lasting supporter of my decision to enroll in art school to be a full-time mosaic artist.

After I joined the Faculty of Fine Arts in Cairo, I had learned that mosaic is much more than just fitting tiny, little pieces together. We studied sculpture, painting, color composition, color theory, and much more. I think mosaic is the kind of art form that requires an understanding of sculpture and painting to be able to express thoughts thoroughly. Mosaic artists need to understand sculpture so they can understand the three dimensional form and all of its aspects such as using appropriate materials while considering the weight in order to choose the correct support. Meanwhile, painting is a primary tool in my mosaic work since most of my design process starts with a sketch which is then turned into a painting and then brought to life as a mosaic.

After I graduated college, I was nominated to be a part of Dr. Sabry Mansour’s Mosaic Team. We worked side-by-side under Dr. Mansour as a lead artist to create and install four large-scale mosaic murals. These murals were for the El Ahram Canadian University and the festival building at the Helwan University Campus. I was fortunate to grow as a professional working on this team under such a well-known Middle Eastern artist.

Finding the love of my life changed my life majorly in many ways. Most importantly, however, I moved across the world so I could be with her. This was when I decided to move to the United States in 2010. I was agreeing to the unknown future and my only power was Love. I moved to a different country and different culture, which turned out to be such a wonderful and rich inspiration to me as an artist.

In 2011, I was honored to become a part of the Chicago Mosaic School’s staff as a Teaching Artist.  This was the first time in my career that I shifted the focus from my practice as an artist to helping growing artists refine their skill and expression in the mosaic art form. I found that I learned so much from my students and harnessed their excitement and transferred it into inspiration to continue to create and build mosaics. Additionally, my work with the Chicago Mosaic School allowed me to meet and work with several international visiting artists. The most impactful experience that I have had working with there would have to be the artwork that I created working under the renowned artist, Verdiano Marzi, in one of his annual visits to the school. It was in this workshop that I truly learned to appreciate the beauty and meaning of every single tesserae that goes into my work.

2012 I was lucky to be offered the opportunity to work at the Hyde Park Art Center on the Southside of Chicago. This innovative art center serves the purpose of reaching a broad and diverse student base. It was there that I was lucky to find students that brought, and still bring, a wider perspective to the class and the art form based on their diverse experiences in life. They continuously inspire me to push boundaries and stretch the limits of the Mosaic art form.

Towards the end of 2012, I was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. I am typically not an optimistic person, and I am quick to find everything that is wrong with a situation. However, miraculously, in this frightening period of the unknown, I was able to see the silver lining in that this experience taught me to appreciate all things and experiences while looking for the positive. It was as though the cancer treatments were a treatment for the negativity inside me, reducing the cancer of negativity and pessimism. This time of my life has had the most profound impact on my artwork. Prior to the diagnosis, I focused on despair and hopelessness in my artwork. However, as I went through treatments and became stronger, I found a new optimism in my life’s outlook. Today I am in remission and continue to hold an optimistic outlook to life. With that, I hope my artwork inspires hope and optimism for the future.

This is Week 19 of 52 Artists in 52 Weeks. Thank you for reading and sharing Ahmed’s story today. To connect with him and see more of his work, please visit the following links:

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