During Pope Francis’ latest visit to Egypt, he received an authentic and creative gift from one of Egypt’s finest artists, Carelle Homsy, who provided him with a personal portrait that he loved, mentioning that it portrayed his true soul.
Homsy, who was born in Cairo in 1968, graduated from the Faculty of Arts in 1991 and worked as a graphic designer for a year while she prepared for her first exhibition. The artist found success in 1992 and left designing to follow her passion. Since then, Homsy has displayed her works in Cairo, London and Greece, and is currently a member of the Syndicate of Plastic Arts and the Atelier Group.
“I started drawing very early in my life, and for as long as I can remember, I have always been painting. I won art competitions at a young age, and so choosing to further pursue this passion and not wanting any other career did not come as a surprise to my family,” she mentions.
Homsy gets her inspiration from events and her surroundings. “In 2009, I created very significant paintings that foreshadowed the January revolution that people could not believe I painted beforehand.”
According to the artist, painting is a state of mind. “Sometimes I feel very confused or depressed while painting, and at other times, I feel happy or excited, and all these emotions are reflected in my artwork,” she says.
Homsy adds, “My paintings portray a specific point of view and allows my audience to contemplate on the meanings behind them. The background is just as important as the hero of the story, as they all reflect the detailed ideas I have that I transfer to the canvas, and they reflect the people, events and circumstances behind this ‘hero’.”
“I never leave an empty spot on the canvas. Each space is a chance to say something,” she explains.
Techniques and Themes
Oils are the artist’s go-to, but she also occasionally uses acrylic. “I love oils as they are made from very rich material and so last longer. Most of the famous artwork is created from these pigments, as there is a very low chance of them getting ruined. I have a 30-year old tube and it still works perfectly, and so I know that my paintings will live for centuries,” she says.
Talent, practice and experience count the most when it comes to art, according to Homsy. “Everything I learned came from experience, practice and trial and error. I studied bits of everything but never went in-depth in any.”
Homsy’s paintings come in different sizes, ranging from square works of 20 centimeters to 2 meters. “I love them to either be very small or very large as I love extremes. The smaller ones provide a sense of enjoyment, like Iranian and Indian artworks, as they are very detailed and require you to constantly find solutions in small spaces. The larger ones are also rewarding as they fill an area with colors and ideas,” she mentions.
The painter’s artwork is diverse, but her pieces always revolve around expressionism and symbolism, as they are detailed with lots of brush strokes that provide a certain depth to them and gives the space to discuss many ideas. Her pieces also have political and cultural elements with a fantasia aspect.
Homsy explains, “At some point around 2006 and 2007, I was obsessed with using bold colors, which is called fauvism, and figurative art as I love to paint people. I have this peaceful war between me and the society because many people avoid painting figures for religious and political reasons, but I think it is very important as it is a way of putting life and energy into a piece of cloth.”
Most of Homsy’s artwork relates to Egypt and its chaotic symbolism, with a spiritual aspect to it. “We are a cosmopolitan country, which helps make my paintings rich and diverse. Even though my origins are Italian, Syrian, Iranian and Armenian, I am a proud Egyptian with a rich cultural background. Egypt is an incredible country and I try to document this through my work.”
“This career is challenging at times, as you have to let your soul be free to create unique pieces, but you also have to stay realistic. You have to stay on top and keep the standard high to keep moving. My exhibitions are limited as I am a perfectionist and I have to be 100% satisfied. I always have to make sure that I would still be proud of that piece of work years from now,” she says.
Homsy’s challenges began after she had her children as it was very hard to balance raising them with her profession, and so she decided to dedicate all her time and energy to her children until they were old enough, before returning to art.
Painting the Pope
The Pope’s painting was one of the most life-altering pieces of art Homsy has drawn. An important Egyptian entity contacted her and asked her to paint a portrait of the Pope as they wanted to provide him with a gift, but things fell apart later on.
Homsy nonetheless was excited about it and insisted on finishing the portrait before contacting the Vatican’s ambassador to inform him in the hopes of meeting the Pope and giving it to him herself.
The next day, she received a call and was told to send the artwork and to prepare herself for meeting him. “It was a dream,” she recalls. “I could not stop crying, but he found it humorous and was very kind. He thanked me a lot and said he loved it, and all I could say throughout my short meeting with him was, ‘please pray for Egypt and the sick.’”
Homsy on Egypt’s Art Scene
In the eyes of Homsy, the art scene in Egypt is booming. “Artists are very enthusiastic, hardworking and creative nowadays. Even though the current situation is tough, we are fighting to keep going. However, we need more people to start appreciating art, as most of the exhibitions are attended by artists, critics, collectors and people in the business, rather than visitors who come solely to enjoy witnessing beautiful pieces of art.”
“I believe that this is the role of education. We need to educate our children to appreciate art and know how important it is, because at the end of the day, it is how we discover previous cultures.”