The artworks of “Ahmed Keshta” left a lot of social media users astonished by their abstract designs which depend mainly on shadow, light, and simple forms that intrigue the mind of the audience to see inspired shapes from nature and from our Egyptian heritage.
After the preparatory year in the applied arts faculty, he entered the decor department, only to switch after a couple of years to the “Sculpture Department”. Finishing university studies Keshta traveled and studied in Europe for several years in Germany and Spain then finally settled in Andorra.
We decided to reach out to him and know more about his story and his art.
So, let’s dive into it!
-From “Décor” to “Sculpture”, what caused this change?
I grew up in a sculpting family. When my father passed away, I had the tools and the atelier, but knew nothing about the art. During my first years, I entered the décor department because of my high score and my friends’ influence, but then when I came in contact with sculpture art, and explored the field using the tools and the materials. I had a silent dialogue, feeling attached to the emotions that were invoked within me.
One day I was in the sculpting workshops experimenting. I thought I had spent an hour or two, only to be surprised that it had been 8 hours!
A friend approached saying:
“Are you thinking about switching to Sculpture?”
“Just bring me a pen and a paper!” my friend said.
-Starting with hard Stones, but being known for simpler daily life materials, tell us more about this transition.
This doesn’t happen all of a sudden.
In the beginning, you have to work a lot and experiment with everything to strengthen your artistic muscles. You do a lot of effort and little thinking.
Then there is an intermediate stage when the effort and the thinking are equal to one another and you start to enjoy what you do more.
Finally, you reach the highest phase, thinking a lot without much physical effort. You limit yourself to a small area of movement where every move counts.
That’s what we call “Deceptively Simple Art”. The professional feels satisfied that he succeeded in delivering his message subtly to the public. And the audience feels joy because they are on the same page with the artist.
-The Role of Personal Experience in the works of Ahmed Keshta, many of your works are inspired by your life experiences, would you tell us more about that?
The work must be a reflection of the artist who produces it. The secret to success is to try your best to be honest with yourself and your audience. And what could be more honest than to present the people with works inspired by real-life experiences that you have lived yourself?
-“The Burned CD” Project:
It was a tough experience that I have gone through, being diagnosed with cancer. I came closer to the pain, the kids, and the patients who suffer from it.
When you have a tumor you do a periodic radio scan. They give you the results on a CD that you keep for reference. So after two years of treatment, I had a full library of CDs. And thank God after a long period of treatment I have been healed.
I wanted to dispose of these CDs, so I decided to burn them, and I threw them away into the chimney. But then feeling that although it’s full of pain, they are still a part of me. So I took them back.
Because of the heat one of them crumbled in a form that resembles a flower. That’s when I decided that I was going to make something beautiful out of them. I collected thousands of CDs from all the patients I knew and made this big exhibition in the hospital from these flowers that anybody could take. We used about 5000 CDs!
It was intriguing for the people to check out and take from them. That was in Madrid which is a big city where people do not know each other, but when they met in the metro they recognized the flowers and it brought them closer, which was the most beautiful thing ever.
As for the Integration, it is a bittersweet story.
I was in the “Retiro” royal park in Madrid; I had an installation there and was taking some measurements.
Then a guy came asking about what I was doing. He had a strange attitude; I told him about the exhibition and invited him inside for a tour and a free coffee. Then he left.
After some time, I saw him talking with the guards of the park. They approached me asking about the exhibition and then asked for the documents. Just as I was showing them, I suddenly found myself surrounded by police armored vehicles from all directions as if I was a terrorist!
I was standing there holding the plastic flowers in my hands not understanding what was going on!
The exhibition management came and clarified the situation. They apologized for the trouble they caused me and they offered to give me a ride to my next appointment. It was kind of funny me going there with a full military parade as I was an important government official.
Later that day, I came to think about it. The incident troubled me a lot.
Why do people distrust or be racist to one another? Why would this happen to me after living here for so long that I became one of the people of this country? And so the “Integration” project came into existence.
It is a photography project where everything is white. The white snow surrounds you from every direction; you’re wearing this white oriental uniform and everything appears to be in harmony. But despite that, there is a hidden conversation going on that everybody knows but never speaks of. From the outside, you’re blending in, but from inside there is some kind of casting out
-What pieces are closest to your heart? Would you tell us more about them?
Horus! I just love it! The story behind “Horus” is a funny one!
I had a “chaise longue” covered with feathers for almost 18 years. I’ve been thinking about this “Horus” concept for a very long time and tried different options but it never came quite right.
Once I was lying on the “chaise longue” and this feather kept poking my back so I removed it and went to throw it away, but it fell down and I didn’t notice. The next day I found it again and asked my assistant to throw it away but it somehow found its way again into the workshop.
I finally decided to pick it up and experiment with it. So, when it was on the table with its shadow, it drew the curve of the head. Then I tried to make the eye with a lens but it didn’t fit well. When I was washing my hands some water drops fell on the table. They looked very similar to a lens, and so I tried to put them together with the feather just right till I reached the solution that I have always been looking for, never realizing that I was just –literally- sitting on it the whole time!
-Philosophy, Science, and Religion. These factors shape your designs, how do they complement each other? and is there a contradiction between the romantic (philosophy, religious belief) and the logical (science)?
These exactly are the design problems that I am supposed to solve. It’s like the loaf of bread. Numerous processes happen between the planting of the seed till the flour reaches the baker, who at the end orchestrates this symphony to produce the loaf that you eat. You as a person have nothing to do with it except to enjoy it. It’s the same as a designer. I have to orchestrate between all these concepts from different backgrounds and solve these contradictions to produce the final piece that you enjoy.
-The role of “modern-ancient” culture in your art. In many art pieces you drive the inspiration from Ancient Egyptian or Islamic cultures, how do you keep the spirit while at the same time present them in a modern way?
This type of art is mainly about playing a mind game with the receiver. We as humans have the ability to identify shapes that we are familiar with. Which is a defense mechanism called “Pareidolia”. We see with our mind which is processing a huge amount of data. So when presented with new data that it cannot identify, it’s automatically associated with something that we are already familiar with.
In addition to that, some people just have the talent of connecting patterns which might be something I have been blessed with. All of these together help in producing this art for the audience.
-How does your design process begin? Do you first choose the material that you’ll use then think about how to incorporate it? Or is it the other way around?
It is more like a puzzle or a harmonic dance. When you’re working on a design you start developing the concept. While doing so, you keep in mind the context and the way it will be represented. As a result, you think of the materials that might be suitable for it. And so by the time the concept is ready you have in mind the materials that might work best and you choose from them. This process happens smoothly as you gain experience.
-Do you see that the artistic taste in Egypt has an interest in such unique art? And is the reaction of your Europeans different?
The Egyptian audience is very interactive with art, and we can all see their engagement on my social media account, which I like to call “My Exhibition”. Through it, I have my art exposed to thousands from all over the world. And the thing that touches me the most is that most of them I don’t know personally. They come from different backgrounds enjoying art. That’s when I know that my “Artistic Experiment” succeeded in reaching the people, and it automatically turns into an “Artwork”. As for the European audience, they enjoy it as much as the Egyptian audience. Egypt’s culture is known all over the globe. It is a country that has got a whole Science by its name “Egyptology”. So everyone just stands fascinated by what it brought to the world. Being an artist, I have the privilege to experiment with our rich culture and try new ways to present it.
-We have seen that your artworks push the audience to think either about the meaning or the professional use of simple materials. Is this you’re your message through art?
Yes, it’s true. This is the beauty of art to the audience, the mystery within it, and the moment of discovery that you experience when you start to see art in daily life objects. It is a built-in nature inside us all!
It makes the art much more engaging. Starting discussions between audience members about what they’re seeing. It shows them how creative their minds are, and gives them the thrill of discovery. The public audience has the power and the sense to criticize your work better than you would do yourself, showing you the pros and cons that you would have never thought of. And the question that we should always be asking is: What around us is not “Art”?!
It was an interview with a lot of insights into the beauty of art, life, culture, and the human mind. If you’re interested in knowing more about art, Check more of our Art Articles.
You may also read more of our Interviews with Egyptian artists and designers. Only here on Linesmag!