Encapsulating Moments in Time

The young Egyptian-American mixed media artist Iman Dabbous is causing a buzz in New York, where she is currently studying, and farther afield. Here she talks to Miriam Dunn about how the chaos and colours of Cairo routinely find their way into her work and her recent decision to experiment with copper plate etchings



As a young artist, who do you regard as your most ‘significance’ in terms of influences and inspiration?


I think I look at many different facets of life when it comes to inspiration or influences. When it comes to artistic influence, I definitely look at other artists, such as Chantal Joffe, Genvieve Figgis and Rose Wylie, among others. However, in terms of other forms for inspiration I almost always listen to music when I am working, which, to an extent, dictates the tone of some of my pieces. As a young person today, as well, I think that so many memories, experiences and relationships have such an impact on day to day life, creating moments that are influential, and it is interesting how these moments. whether small or big, inadvertently appear in my work without me even being aware of when I am making them.


What impact and influence do you think your Egyptian heritage has on your art and is it something you can see yourself in your work?


I think your heritage and where you have grown up is clearly such a fundamental part of your personality and identity. Ancient Egypt, with its use of symbols in terms of art and relaying messages and information, has definitely had an impact on my work as I think symbols and motifs are super present in my own art. Cairo now is also a very chaotic and colourful place; in terms of my own pieces there is definitely an element of chaos that is at times hard to describe, like Cairo.


Your work is characterised predominantly by the distortion of figures and the human form. Have you always leaned towards figurative work and if so, how did you discover this to be your preferred genre?

I have always been drawn to figurative work, even from a younger age. I was never really that compelled by the more traditional form of art, so when I realised that was not the only way to make art, I was immediately roped in. In my secondary school in London, my art teacher really allowed me to have my own approach, even when the projects were slightly more rigid, so that definitely helped me lean towards my style now. When it comes to portraiture and the distortion of the human form it is always interesting how my own subconscious perception of the people that I am painting or drawing is seen in the way I depict them. It almost allows people to see things or people through my own lens.

As a mixed media artist, how do you decide which medium to work with when starting out on a project or does the medium dictate the subject?


I usually start off with a rough idea of the medium that I intend on using, but it is a very fluid process, so I am never really 100 percent sure what the final outcome will be like. When it comes to the subject of my pieces, I predominantly let the subject dictate my work, rather than have the medium dictate the subject. Particularly when I am working on portraits of close friends and family members, I try to integrate which medium would suit their appearance or characteristics, allowing elements of them to come through.


You are also known for your thoughtful use of colour. How do you set out to ensure it relays the messages you want to share with audiences?


Colour plays such an important role in my art, I have to be quite experimental when it comes to the colours I choose to include. A lot of it comes from intuition and using references from my own past work or other artists work to see what works and what doesn’t. After a great deal of learning about the complexities of colour theory and Josef Albers, I feel that I have become increasingly aware of the power of colour in a piece. Making work also relies a lot on quick decision-making, so not overthinking each colour I choose to include and mix hopefully relays the messages I want to share with my audience.

What are you currently working on and what’s in the pipeline?

I am currently working on some printmaking pieces, particularly copper plate etchings. It has been really cool to try a new medium, especially something that is process based and time consuming. Furthermore, seeing my own style transfer into a different medium is super exciting. I plan on working a lot more with photography and incorporating that into my paintings to create more mixed media collages.



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