Watercolor, pencil and ink on paper

“My paintings are expressions of my own personal identity and a celebration of Egyptian history.

At the age of 18, I moved from Egypt to the United States to attend the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, which influenced the way I view the world and think about identity, spirituality, balance and harmony. Exploring notions of femininity and spirituality and how it relates to my identity as an Egyptian woman; by providing a link between the past and the present through poetic and symbolic imagery.

My painting practice is historically, culturally and socially motivated. Walking through the landscape of my ancestors, ancient cities, temples, and the Nile Valley fuels my imagination – making me a storyteller, a daydreamer, a painter and an art educator. My drawings and paintings grew out of the need I felt to document dreams, stories and memories. My fascination with the Ancient Egyptian concept of the soul, the Ka (person’s life force), the Ba (the soul), and the Akh (after-death, the ka and ba united) became a constant inspiration in my paintings.

The Ka is a spiritual twin, sacred essence and an individual ego born with every person and lives on after death. It is often represented as a divine projection of the individual with a pair of raised arms above the head. In my artwork, the Ba represents conscience in the form of a bird with human eyes, often standing on my shoulder and guiding me through life.

My works vary in size from small intimate self-portraits, to very large worlds and narratives; combining personal interpretations of ancient spiritual Egyptian symbols, with modern-day chaos. I work primarily with watercolor, gouache, ink, and graphite on handmade paper. The luminous qualities of watercolor and inks allow me to layer, work fast and challenge me to respond to the unforgiving material and “live with my mistakes”. And while watercolor is hard to move, gouache is opaque and dries to a matte finish, which I use to add striking graphical lines and rich color. I embrace the characteristics of my materials and layer watercolor and gouache together to achieve varying degrees of opacity and contrast.

The process of creating is a way for me to be a constant experimenter, with a spontaneous approach and working practice that seeks to unite layering of materials and concepts. I am a collector of dreams and memories simply because I am afraid of forgetting. I think that the world is too fast, and I like to challenge people to slow down.”

Maryam Gaber: website / instagram