In an old factory in the underprivileged neighborhood of Ard El-Lewa, Shady El-Noshokaty is building a space for local art students to continue learning and growing as artists after graduation.
The former Biennale winner and famed painter turned multimedia artist plans to launch the Nokoshaty Foundation in March — but will need to find time to put the finishing touches on the space first. A self-funded project built from scratch with the help of a few friends, the foundation is devoted to furthering art education and intellectual engagement in Egypt.
Daily News Egypt visited the site of the new project to learn more about what drove the artist and full time professor to take on yet another challenge.
Daily News Egypt: What is your vision for the Noshokaty Art Foundation?
Shady El-Noshokaty: It is an intellectual space for university art students from around Egypt. I wanted to create a place where art graduates could experience another level of education. It is a space that provides the facilities and environment for young artists to gain information conceptually, improve their grasp of artistic language and explore philosophy, elements that are lacking in local art education.
The foundation is an extension of the workshop that I started 10 years ago at the Faculty of Art Education, which I started to help students learn more about different approaches and media. The workshop has been highly successful and I’d like to extend the intellectual environment it offers to a more permanent space.
You teach for a living; do you enjoy it and benefit from it or is it simply something necessary to support your art?
I’ve been teaching for 15 years now and I enjoy it. Teaching is more than a job to me, it’s a challenge. I think I’m lucky to be a teacher and I don’t think of teaching and my work as an artist as separate occupations; as a teacher I draw upon my experience as an artist, and as an artist I utilize my knowledge from teaching.
You started out as a painter before moving into new media; why did you decide to make this change?
It was hard as I was popular and commercially successful as a painter. I enjoyed it but I felt I needed to move beyond painting as it was the only thing I knew about art. I started to think about doing something new and exploring new ideas. I represented Egypt in Venice in 1999 and this experience, as it was my first time traveling abroad, gave me the shock I needed to make a change. I got interested in video animation and sound but didn’t understand it and I had so many ideas but didn’t know how to make them happen. I think it was a good decision to leave painting, but I might return to it at some point.
How do you take an idea and make into a piece of art?
Contemporary art is about the process of creation whereas modern art is more about aesthetics and human experience as well as experimentation. Contemporary art is based on the collection of data, which the artist analyses and puts together into an artistic language to say something that is not clear or apparent. You have a vision of the relationship between two things and propose a theory through art.
You’ve taken part in many international exhibitions; how is your work received abroad?
As an Egyptian it’s hard to avoid being labeled and headlined in a certain way when exhibiting abroad. I don’t like the fact that my work is constantly associated with where I come from; I’m completely against this as I consider myself just an artist, not an Egyptian or Middle Eastern artist.
I always accept invitations for exhibitions with titles like “Contemporary Art of the Islamic World,” which was the name of a show I did in Germany. I tried to challenge this framing of my work by staging a performance piece about the meaning of art. People need to understand that art in the Middle East doesn’t have to be about the social reality; it can be about the hidden reality, just like it is with artists around the world.
How do you strike a balance between the commercial and creative aspects of your work?
The conceptual art that I do now is not commercial. People don’t like to buy it because they don’t understand it, it’s not colorful and it’s not about reality. It is intellectual and philosophical, and much of it is on a large scale — all of this makes it hard to sell. All of my projects are self-funded and home produced. I never wait for money I just do my work; as long as I have a vision and I want to do it, I do it.
The Nokoshaty Foundation is devoted to furthering art education and intellectual engagement in Egypt.