Interview: Dina El-Sioufi
Luca Curci talks with Dina El-Sioufi during OUT OF BALANCE, second appointment of CANVAS Art Fair 2020, at THE LINE Contemporary Art Space in London.
Dina El-Sioufi was born in Alexandria, Egypt. She Grew up and studied in London, where she completed a BSc. in Physics and a PostGrad. Dip. in Mathematical Physics in 1989 at Kings College. She worked in private tuition and freelance translation while starting studies in art history including a PostGrad.Dip. in Post War and Contemporary Art at Sotheby’s in 1997. In 2000, she obtained a MA in Modern French Studies at Birkbeck College. In 2006, she continued working as a freelancer in UK and France. In 2009, she started sporadically attending painting courses in the UK: RDS, Slade Summer School, Heatherleys and open studio classes in Nice, France. However, she prefers to call herself a self-taught artist.
Luca Curci – What is Art for you?
Dina El-Sioufi – As a spectator, for me, art is a form of escape into a magical world that is open to all kinds of emotions, intensifies my senses and feeds my imagination as with music, literature, poetry. Like many who become artists, this is a start. this contact with art for me has turned into an urgent need to “do it”, taking from the artists and the world and appropriating them through fragments expressed in painting.
LC – What’s your background? What is the experience that has influenced your work the most?
DES – I started with the ambition and desire to become a theoretical physicist. This was my passion as a teenager and in my twenties. It is a world that I will always love, even if far away now. Beyond my BSc and PostGrad Dip. And pre-university teaching in the field I went no further. My mind was elsewhere, I loved art, especially painting and since childhood, I was regularly taken to museums. My favourite painter is El Greco, but there are actually too many that I love. But Domenicos Theotocopoulos / El Greco was perhaps the reason why I fell intensely in love with painting. It influenced my work. what led me to paint – apart from my love for El Greco – was my homeland, Egypt. The immense love I have for Egypt and the sense of panic at the idea that our identity would be lost and transformed into a monotonous colourless uniform was unbearable. 2011 was the turning point when I started painting taking a cue from the Egyptian past that was omnipresent.
LC – Where do you find your inspiration?
DES – My inspiration, including the Egyptian connection, comes from poetry, literature, other artists, opera, music and philosophy. My past studies are also an inspiration for my painting. For example, a catchy phrase in a book or poem makes me want to create a scenario.
LC – What is your creative process like?
DES – I usually start by covering my canvas with a light transparent colour. I can stay without painting it even for days, depending on whether a sentence or an image has caught my attention or not. Then I start thinking about how to express the sentence through the figures or how to juxtapose the figures to express an idea that is prey to my mind or that suddenly came to me while looking at the images I want to “take” from. So I work very quickly with black or an Earth colour to draw the outlines directly on the canvas. I do everything on the canvas with paint. I scrape, correct, fill, mix one colour into another or into others. I rarely mix colours on my palette. I paint with different brushes, I use spatulas to scrape or smooth the paint, sometimes I also use a cloth or my fingers. I only use oil paints. More precisely, the mediums I use are linseed oil and enamel mix. Mainly wet in wet work. I usually “finish” a painting in a week/10 days. The biggest difficulty I have is with my choice of colour. I need to think and correct, change one colour once the other looks unattractive with it. I could go back to the painting a month later to add touches.
LC – Do you agree with our vision of art and what do you think about the theme of the festival?
DES – I think what you are doing is superb. Offering different platforms for artists to express themselves according to their possibilities is excellent. The theme of the festival is very current and I would say truly timeless. Fragmented bodies, mixed identities, imbalances, borders etc. These are all very human and universal issues. Creating a festival that engages with these is very important.
LC – We were attracted to your last artistic production, has the artwork presented been created for the festival or as part of preexisting works?
DES – Actually, ”Meditation on a Rite of Spring” was created just before I decided to participate, and was inspired by a photo of composer-musicians Igor Stravinsky and Pierre Boulez in the catalogue of the Pierre Boulez exhibition I was reading. At the same time, I had Stravinsky’s CD, “Rite of Spring” directed by Boulez. So I thought about painting a 2 part painting. The oppositional contrast is given by the fact that Stravinsky and Boulez required a precise and acute sense of proportion in the composition, but also that the creation of this work ended up being defined as hedonistic and almost wild seemed perfect for the theme of the exhibition ”OUT OF BALANCE”. I started ”The Tree between Unequal Intensity – Sbilancio dell’Intensità” when I agreed to participate. Thus, the idea of the work suitable for the exhibition became stronger in my mind, hence the addition of the Italian title. The tree is also a reference to Adam and Eve. So the imbalance between the primordial and the present, between what is outside us, beyond us and what is inside us. As well as an imbalance that is not only between the feelings of man and woman but also between the “biblical” beginnings and the hedonistic society of today. Hence the submission of painting.
LC – Would you suggest a collaboration with us? What do you think about our services?
DES – Yes sure. I would love to participate again. However, if there are no sales, it is very difficult to continue paying for the exhibition, especially the transport to Venice. (My paintings are large and the effort and cost are quite high). Anyway, I think your services from what I can see on social media are excellent. Unfortunately, we’re stuck and this is my first collaboration with you, so I can’t tell in person yet.
LC – What is your idea about ITSLIQUID GROUP?
DES – I really like the title. ITSLIQUID GROUP is very dynamic: it embraces all the various creative fields. This makes it very original and opens the mind to other art forms by taking us on a multicultural journey into all types of art.
LC – Did you enjoy cooperating with us?
DES – So far all is good. But still have not had the chance to see for me the exhibition. Unfortunately, we are still in lockdown. (One thing though the PV I was told the service includes invitations to friends – no one asked me about this. It’s OK but just wondering. I couldn’t go anyway. And the circumstances are very difficult for us all now.) I think that everyone I have contacted was wonderful and very helpful. (But the question has to take place at the end – after 20 December! If no new or prolonged lockdown God forbid!)