Take a walk through Ayda Mansour’s world of whimsically-flowing contrast and colour.
To talk about anything artistic almost certainly entails a flurry of vague, even pretentious terminology and observations relevant to the artistic process. A fire-and-forget approach to lauding art that is mostly achieved by slapping the terms 'contemporary' and 'abstract' onto almost anything visually-challenging, and then peppering it all with a dash of conceptuality.
That isn’t the case when it comes to looking at what Cairo-based artiste, Ayda Mansour, has to offer. Though her pieces might look like an exposé on the human condition from a distance, her approach is akin to that of most realistic, accomplished artists, producing things that look nice, and are heavily-laced with raw human emotion; the kind that doesn’t take a connoisseur to appreciate.
“I was exposed to art at a very young age. My grandmother was an artist, curator of the Mahmoud Khalil Museum, interior decorator for many hotels, and the first gallery owner whom promoted Egyptian art. She would always teach my sister and I how to paint, take us to all the museums all over the world, and teach us about the different types and disciplines of art, artists and culture. To encourage us, she would exhibit our scribbles in her exhibitions. She was my mentor, and in my free time, I would go to her studio where I’d grab a canvas, some paints, and let the colours lead the way.”
Ayda finds inspiration in literally anything; people going about their business, animals interacting with their environment, trees swaying in the wind, bustling city streets and the textures and emotions surrounding it all.
My artwork is a portrayal of all the different emotions that I experience on a regular basis. As an introvert, it is difficult to express emotions; as a result, I find my release through my use of colours on a canvas. I began by painting realistic and surreal images of my fears and thoughts.
Ayda is adept at immersing herself in, and making use of, negativity. “I’m the type of person that likes to look at all the negatives in a different light. I’m emotional, so I use the negative that surrounds us mostly in my abstract work. I had gone through a surreal phase in 2011 during the revolution, but then I had my first transition to abstract art.”
When it comes to the abstract, Ayda’s pieces manage to look as if completely random, and yet, you can feel what’s going on. Having seen her work, bearing in mind that I am about as artistic as a garden shovel, I can still relate to what’s going on, not that I have to; it just looks nice, and feels nicer. Later on in her abstract phase came a brand of floral inspiration; Ayda really likes flowers.
When I stared the flower collection; my goal was to use simple, abstract representations of flowers to illustrate the natural circle of life. Just like a flower, every experience, emotion and phase has a lifespan. As I got more involved with my abstract flowers, I had the urge to depict flowers in different seasons and forms, all painted in very unrealistic shapes. I used bold colour combinations and diverse materials to express various emotions. I found that by abstracting a flower, it becomes a mere metaphor for something else; it may express an emotion or mood, nevertheless, always looking beautiful.
She isn’t all oil-on-canvas, though; Ayda also likes to dabble with sculptures, installations, ceramics and lithography. “I love the idea of working with different materials. I try to experiment as much as possible, and I find that each form of art takes you further, I still have much to learn. I also just took a course in Paris, learning the art of wedding cakes; a form of edible sculpture.” One can hardly wait to see that endeavour bear fruit.
As a testament to the kind of creative range Ayda is capable of, she was once commissioned to paint a three-metre wooden Absolut bottle last summer on the North Coast, and it was quite the special edition, if only for its vividly-aquatic theme. Not to mention her work on Kiki’s Beach Bar, also in the North Coast, where she worked her magic on the establishment itself; I guess you can consider it a permanent installation dedicated to her talent.”
On the point of Absolut, Ayda has been invited along with nine other emerging artists for the very first Absolut Art contest in Egypt. The challenge was to paint an Absolut bottle to perhaps rival those tinged with the expert strokes of Andy Warhol. Ayda managed to paint something nobody saw coming, and the both Absolut and the world were better for it.
This painting represents my Absolut experience. It all starts with a few ice cubes and Absolut, as the ice cubes melt the world begins to transform to another dimension filled with a combination of beautiful emotions. The colours become brighter, imaginations grow wider, talent is revealed and joy is heightened. As time passes, the bottle begins to expand its boundaries, and the elements locked within become free. The inclusion of the belly dancer among the circus represents diversity, a feeling that is exclusive to Absolut. The circus captures endless possibilities, inspiring one to a universe of opportunities.
Ayda has had her work features in many an exhibition worldwide. Whether it’s 2015’s The Verve of Abstraction in New York, Biennale Riviera del Brenta Mira in Venice, the Tokyo International Art Fair in Tokyo or Emotions in Montreal Canada, her work has managed to permeate borders, and hopefully, inspire others to let loose their creativity.
“I believe that everyone is creative in their own way; you should always embrace it, be proud of it and show it off. There can never be too much creativity in this world. If you are too terrified to progress, just know that you’re not the only one in these shoes, in life we are all terrified to do something, but what’s the worst that could happen? No matter how many times you fail, you’ll always learn something new, and you’ll only move forward from there. We all start at the bottom, so my advice is to just put your foot out there and to give it a shot."