At first glance, this Cairo art installation appears to be a mural in red and purple hues, of three people at a table. Their eyes are blinking, and that’s when you realise they are actually real.
The installation, called After Dinner, was Cairo-based artist Chanel Arif’s latest venture into living, breathing art.
Arif uses humans and their surroundings as her canvas, creating what at first appear to be two-dimensional paintings using fluid brush strokes and playing with light and shadows.
The artist says there’s not much difference to drawing on paper.
“It’s not that difficult because I apply the same techniques as I would a 2D painting, you know, like a sketchbook. It’s the same thing but on a bigger scale, and so you know when you look at the person or the model, you’re not looking at them as a three-dimensional person. But I look at them like, literally, they are a canvas and applying the same fine arts technique that I would on a canvas or paper,” Arif said.
The child of Saudi and Iranian immigrants to the United States, Arif first signed up to study make-up and body art in Los Angeles last year.
After returning to Egypt, she relied on friends, who offered their bodies and time, to experiment with.
“It’s crazy to be able to create that optical illusion from 3D to 2D. Also, it affects people differently. I mean when you do body painting, or when you create something with the human body, people are affected more by it. There’s something, like, intimate about it,” said Arif.
“It feels nice to be painted on. You’re just like a canvas for someone’s vision and even just to be concentrating to keep a certain mood is really meditative. Everything about it is cool,” said May Mansour, a model.
Arif usually starts with a sketch, inspired by an emotion or mood that dictates the palette. In each work, Arif strives to create something that invites the viewer to forget the space they’re physically in.
Inspired by American artist Alexa Meade, the concept is new in Egypt’s contemporary art scene, where artists can struggle to engage conservative audiences.
“The installation is a new idea and I like that it’s bringing art to life. Instead of taking pictures of people and observing them while it’s lifeless, we now see the painting alive by people. This idea is new and I think it can revolutionise art. It’s the first time I see this in Egypt and I’m impressed by the work and the material used. It’s surreal and I really like it,” said Salma Barakat, a visitor at the exhibition.
Arif created the installation over a period of six days, giving a boost to Egypt’s creative scene. – Reuters