“I listen to my inner voice…”

Paul Zimmerman in conversation with Ilham Mahfouz


Paul Zimmerman: You are a mixed media artist. How do you select Materials?

Ilham Mahfouz:  I select Materials according to the theme of my project that I am working  to achieve in art, example: I wanted to do modern calligraphy with the word Peace, so I did on paper individually 13 words of Peace in several languages, inserted inside a mesh then backed into a black velvet in a plexiglass box (World Peace) I was fortunate to have it as a permanent collections at National Arab American Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, USA.

PZ: Do you have any particular goal in mind when your start a new piece?

IM: I start with the Idea in my mind and I choose what media best to use to achieve the goal and transfer it well in to a peace of art , sometimes in clay, I do sculptural artworks like the one I did for an exhibit about the refugees and their suffering it was done from clay sculptures hung between the ceiling and the ground with artist Mr. Wojtek Sawa, at Hamtramack, Michigan pop-up museum. After the thinking process choosing which media is best i start directly on working the idea to a wonderful artwork.

PZ: What is the most challenging aspect of your work?

IM: Sometimes I get stand still stuck in the middle of abstract painting so I wait and start some other artwork and go back and forth to it, to see my views differ on it and I work on it till it seems to me it is done by reaching the goals in mind.

PZ: What is your artistic process? How do you create your paintings?

IM: I start with beautiful music in the background , it could be classical music, jazz, songs, opera, etc… it depends on my desire that moment then I start with the Idea, I plan my starting color then I go from there with feeling of the painting to direct it toward the theme or achieve the goal with consideration to colors, harmony, contrasts, shapes, textures, etc… I leave it then I go back to see if I can improve on it, some times I go back and add and some times I stop if I feel it is done.

PZ: How do you know when the painting is finished?

IM: The painting is finished when I see and feel it is complete from a point of colors, contrasts, shapes, textures… I  listen to my inner voice and I also feel it when it is done.

PZ:  Have your practice changed over time?

IM: Truly the practice evolved further steps in care but the process is the same.

PZ: How would you describe yourself as an artist?

IM: As an artist I am affected by the news of the world as well as home country and community, I reflect in my artwork reactions or reply to the situation we are living, like the pandemic, hunger, loss of jobs, war, etc… as a human being first feel with others and I try to make a difference in this world through my voice in the art. while I had participated in several exhibits plus my so art exhibit against war (2014) at the Swords into Plowshares Peace Center Gallery in Detroit, Michigan (“Syria Crisis” and “Hope”).

PZ: Which artists influenced you?

IM: Many artists influenced me and inspired me, I owe tremendous gratitude to my professors whom inspired me and contributed to my success Mr. Robert Piepenburg, Mr. Barry Avadon,

Mr. Michael Zaratka, Mrs. Susan Stephenson, Dr. Rubenfield… all to the great artists to Matisse, Paul Klee, Kandinsky, Jackson Pollack, Clifford Still, Miro… and I was fortunate to visit Spain with Dr. Rubenfield for art to see the beautiful Andalusian architecture Islamic architecture in Cordoba, Seville, Granada , and see also Gaudy architecture the park and the unfinished church , and Miro Museum… a great contributions to my artwork that inspired me and I still look for new creative artworks in the world.

PZ: What is art for you?

IM: Art is not a concept of beauty only, Art is Life.

PZ: How does the pandemic influence your work and sensibility?

IM: Pandemic, I see it a time of test to all humanity, as an artist with great faith , hope that a passing test we all had to endure and learn from it too, had to support each others, we are all in it east and western civilizations together, we have to be positive, help each others through this hard time, learn from it loss of lives affected us all there is no winner. I hope we all care for humanity and environment to save it for next generations to come. I focused on connecting with artists of the world on social media, lifting each others spirits, giving hope and encouragements, also I got to have great friends from allover the world, got invited to participate on line exhibits some for free and some for small fee, I participated in Mexico, Singapore, Turkey, France, Germany, Iraq India, South Korea and now I got an invitation to participate in Jordan. My focus was to connect with other artists first and that made me feel good and positive energy that we are helping each others, they invited me and I shared my invitations with other artists so we can be united as human beings and artists in the world through this hard time, we help one another that is the answer. By giving you are gaining always.

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