Zeina Soliman is a lover of creation. Not limiting themselves to a single medium, the artist partakes in sculpting, styling, painting and various forms of crafts. The emerging artist presents bold and innovative pieces celebrating materials and redefining their provenance. For this feature with Arts Help, Soliman reminisced over her formative art journey, as well as the boundlessness and greater importance of art during the current times. Born and raised in Egypt, Soliman cites the land as one filled with diverse sources of inspiration. Soliman’s art embraces both natural and man-made materials to create an amalgam of post-modern pieces. This reiterates the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals of Climate Action and Life on Land.

Matter by Zeina Soliman. Image courtesy of Zeina Soliman.

Soliman cites her first contact with art as being immediate; their experience with crafting and creation was one that the artist credits to the freedom to explore through painting on walls and being permitted to experiment. Soliman discusses her mother's role in her journey and characterizes her as her muse – one she expresses as being a continuous influence on her creations. Being born in Cairo, the artist moved to Canada to pursue her studies. The artist describes the contrast of mechanized aesthetics of factory buildings alongside dense woodlands far into the distance, creating a sense of “apocalyptic beauty” that she captures in her works. The works are described by the artist as being a mix of the natural and man-made constructs that birth a fusion that is a mirror to the world it came from. Soliman describes art as constant and details the idea that art exists in all things. “The Art already exists, the symmetry, geometry in nature, it's out there everywhere. You just have to find it," said Soliman.

Soliman chronicles her artistic evolution as being developed alongside her experience as a student in Toronto. She used the grime and grayness of the city in the deep winter to find the beauty amongst the concrete and dark alleyways. She described the lack of nature as being the driving force to look for the nature of these unnatural sights. The artist describes looking outside the window and only being limited to a few patches of green from neighbouring parks as being a large part of her artistic process. The reinterpretation of this space as having its own depressing allure is a common theme throughout her work. 

Perception by Zeina Soliman. Image courtesy of Zeina Soliman.

Soliman’s works are laden with contrast and chaos. They challenge the viewer to reflect, recall their values and dive deep into their melancholic memories. The pieces are reminiscent of the mosaic of colours that can be found in alleyways and street corners. The randomness is captured in a single image and conveys a larger story that uses the smaller stories embedded in the canvas to tell a larger story. Soliman also uses wax and several tools to create textures in her works and give off a 3D effect. In her piece Matter, the artist elevates dark protrusions from the canvas and contrasts them with white stones placed on clay, which had been burnt to create cracks. One which mimics the cracks and water damage of a dilapidated city. Using nail polish to add spacey blues and a glossy finish also adds to the beauty and the grim atmosphere. 

Solace by Zeina Soliman. Image courtesy of Zeina Soliman.

The viewer gains a glimpse of Soliman’s soul through all these pieces. Her expression is blunt in its contradictions, encompassing both isolation and love. The works are made unique through their interpretation and the inspiration they provide. A longing for home, an appreciation of the unknown and the hypocrisy it presents itself as. Ultimately, the message that is relayed is one of the environment's effects on not just other parts of itself but also the inner psyche of those who live and are exposed to it.

From Cairo to Toronto, Soliman has observed the world around her and the civilizations that encroach upon the nature surrounding it. She describes the latter as containing art all on its own without a brush stroke or a pen's touch. The patterns of a beetle and the beauty of an ecosystem are as artistic and valuable to art as any great artist or piece they have created. With more of the world's resources being used to create more land for farming or to construct new mines, it is akin to the destruction of art itself.

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