Artist Ayda Mansour is currently displaying a collection of paintings at Eklego Design’s Zamalek branch. Eklego’s products range from furniture and lighting to home accessories that often emerge from collaborations with local designers and artists. Mansour’s abstract paintings effortlessly complement Eklego’s current collection, as her dynamic depictions of flowers would easily invite themselves into modern homes.

We spoke with the artist who completed her bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts from Concordia University in Montral in 2011.

Has your upbringing in an artistic family and environment inspired you towards this profession?
To start with, my grandmother was an artist, curator of the Mahmoud Said Museum, promoter of many of the great iconic Egyptian artists and an interior designer.  My uncle was a renowned photographer and my mother has always been very passionate about art and interior design.

Having grown up in such an artistic surrounding, I developed a passion for art at a young age.  As a child, my grandmother would take my sister and me to every art exhibit; she took us all over the world to various museums, teaching us about all the great artists and their different techniques.  In my free time, I would go to her house where I would grab a canvas and some paints and would let the colors lead the way.

Throughout my school years, I took every art elective, experimenting with diverse mediums, until I decided that painting was what I wanted to pursue.  With a brilliant mentor by my side, I learned all the basics. I constantly drew inspiration from her.

Did studying art shape your style and subjects?
Studying art was a very necessary experience as it broadened my exposure to the art world.  In university, unlike in high school where you are inspired by a few classmates, you are among a thousand other students trying to succeed in the same subject.  It was extremely competitive but at the same time very inspiring.  I learned a lot from my colleagues and I pushed myself to experiment with the different mediums and styles, which in turn gave me a much more creative approach.

What about your technique: do you prefer using the knife instead of a brush?
With abstract paintings, I start off by painting a scene, memory or an idea in my head using a brush.  My next step is to add many layers of paint using a knife or any other tool that grabs my interest.  I enjoy getting my hands dirty when I paint as it removes the aspect of control and limitations on a canvas, which allows me to fully express myself.

How much time do you usually spend creating a painting and where do you usually like to paint?
It varies from painting to painting, but I tend to get lost in my paintings, making it difficult for me to keep track of time.

I prefer to paint outdoors as I’m constantly inspired by the beauty and colors around me.  The other advantage is that it gives me the liberty to splatter paint and create a mess with the comfort that I haven’t ruined or stained anything around me.  However, I also enjoy painting at home, as I draw my inspiration from all the paintings of the old iconic artists hung in the house.  Having lived in Canada for eight years, the weather didn’t give me much choice.

Your first solo exhibition was in 2011 in Cairo, and was titled “The Revolution.” How would you say your artwork changed since then?
My artwork has changed tremendously since 2011, which at the time was my last year at university.  My subject matter was the revolution and the work was not all abstract; I was doing a lot of figurative pieces.  Nevertheless, as time passed, I have developed my approach and evolved in my technique and style, especially since living in North America opened my eyes to the trends of abstract painting.

How did the collaboration with Eklego materialize?
In March 2015, I had an exhibition in Cairo and Eklego bought three of my paintings for their projects, and a year later, they approached me for collaboration.

How did you select pieces for the exhibition, especially that they all have similar colors and match together with Eklego’s collection?
The pieces displayed are part of my new collection titled “Flowers in Abstract”.  The inspiration for this collection began a few months ago when I decided to take part in the Tokyo Art Fair.

Choosing the pieces for the Eklego exhibition was not difficult, as I knew I wanted to exhibit my latest work.  As for matching the colors, that is not something I usually consider, given that in each collection there is a connection between the different pieces, which brings it all together nicely.

You’ve exhibited your work in Cairo, Canada, US and, lately, in Italy and Japan during 2016. How was the experience in exhibiting in different countries?
Each place is definitely unique because each country has a very interesting culture with a different perspective on art.  Having the opportunity to exhibit in several countries has broadened my exposure and has allowed me to understand various art markets that constantly inspire me to play around with my style, technique and approach.

There’s one painting that is different from the others at Eklego with a label stating that it’s from the artist’s private collection. Unlike the flowers collection, the painting is a reproduction of an iconic photograph, with smiling blue eyes of the Afghan girl who is wrapped in red cloth.

Is there a story behind this painting, and why is it displayed individually?
This painting has a very special story and was initially a commissioned painting.  A collector had many different artists paint the famous Afghani girl that was photographed by Steve McCurry, published on the cover of the National Geographic magazine.

I chose this particular photograph of the girl because it captured the essence of the child.  It took me over 100 hours to complete this painting, in which I became more and more attached to the girl I was painting.  When I was done, I was too attached to let go so I got inspired for a future project and decided that I wanted to create a collection of ethnic children, each with their own unique story.  I want to exhibit this collection in various countries, in which the proceedings would be given to a children’s charity to raise awareness of the reality of the world that we live in.