THE COLORED BRIDGE OVER THE DIVIDE
For a while now I have been tempted to reflect on how the epigraphs before the essays set the tone for the whole book. I must admit that the writing of each of the essays had its own ritual, and picking an epigraph was an important part of it, similar to the careful tuning of a music instrument before playing it. Why are they there, and why are they what they are? Because this book is about an artist who knows his path, and who knows what tools to use for his artistic expressions. His path is towards creative art; his tools are colors, content, and female images.
A smallest undeserved praise in this book would be jarring to Ayyad Alnimer's delicate ear and taste. Yet, there is no way to praise too highly his entrancing, rich visual storytelling. What we see is not a fashionable performance art to be promoted to the public at large. His art is very private and personal: it communicates through subdued nuances of love for his homeland, people, nature, and women.
This is what gave birth to a retrospective chapter showing his personal and artistic evolution. Ayyad Alnimer's style, topics, and techniques have been evolving over time. One thing, though, has never changed: his honesty, his undying curiosity, and his strive to become an even better artist. This may sound like a simple recipe for success, but it is not, because not many in the art world have been able to thrive and at the same time preserve their human and artistic personality.
Ayyad Alnimer has done just that. This is why we can trust him and his art that is, in many ways, more poetic than poetry itself. Ayyad Alnimer’s message to us is: Do not shy away from feelings and relationships, such as love, closeness, changeability, and vulnerability. They are the only things that remind us that we are still alive and in mutually enriching relationships with other people. Because if we are not, maybe we are no longer alive.
Ever since I was a child in elementary school, I found my mind wondering endlessly. Journeying beyond the physical world allowed me to be truly free, and delve into an undiscovered dimension where I embraced a new perspective of the world around me. My mind was my freedom and gave me the power to be anywhere and experience anything. The best part of exploring your mind is that it’s endless. The more I discovered about myself the more I learned what defined me as an artist. Oftentimes I would find not only my mind drifting, but also my body. Mother Nature had her way of drawing me in, almost as if she had me in a deep state of hypnosis. I gravitated towards the effortless beauty she possessed; the never ending fields, the depth of the sky, and the clouds that seemed to magically appear and shift form as they pleased. I saw qualities of nature in myself in that we’re both wild and free. At the age of eleven, I decided to explore the world from a new perspective; from above. The streets of Cairo are full of life, noise and disorder, so I began to walk through the sea of faces. I continued to walk all day until finally I began to climb. Soon enough I found myself gazing across the land with a clear view from the highest point of the Great Pyramid of Khufu. Sitting there amongst the clouds, I felt both my physical and spiritual self were finally unified. I was determined to go to the extremes, push the limits of what was expected of me, and embrace innovation.
The first time I became conscience of my artistic abilities was in the fourth grade. Students were given a small drawing book and lead pencils. I enjoyed drawing people and faces from memory rather than having a reference. Drawing immediately became my creative outlet for self-expression. After the passing of my grandfather in 1963, I acquired stacks of literature that my uncle cherished. I began to read all of the fiction novels, my curiosity, and fascination only increasing with every word. Reading had evoked a newfound passion so I began buying new novels from what little money I was able to save up. As most young teens, I was filled with energy I conveyed this passion through writing. Before long, I began to submit short stories and poetry to publish in magazines. With support from my mother, in 1969, I was able to publish a book of short stories called “Colors”, which later motivated me to delve into the art world. After graduating high school, I took the opportunity to attend art shows, explore museums, and visit galleries, continually learning and broadening my knowledge about art. Not only was I learning about other artists and their work but I was also discovering and learning about myself as an artist.
My father was extremely unsupportive of my choice to study art and instead wanted me to study something more practical. I felt as if I had to choose between two identities, one as a good son or the other as an independent artist. I have always been very strong willed and I had made my decision to follow my intuition and hold on to my independence. I wouldn’t allow myself to be forced into another career path., so I applied to every art college in Egypt. In my father’s eyes I was rebellious, but I perceived myself as a hero. Soon I had gotten accepted into the Helwan University (Faculty of Fine Arts) in Cairo and I was ecstatic. I had kept my love for the arts bottled up for so many years; this was the first opportunity I had to be completely open and proud, shameless of my talent that I believed to be a gift from God. Everything seemed to be going in my favor until I was unexpectedly drafted into the army. I had no idea how I was going to be able to attend school while serving my duty in the military. This was a major obstacle that I thought would destroy my dreams of being an artist and I was miserable. However, with help from a few fellow colleagues, I figured out a way to stay enrolled in the academy. I was able to communicate assignments through mail that I would work on in my bunker on days off. Since I was unable to attend class, I lost all credit towards attendance and entered into the final exam with a grade of 50%. I was able to take the final and pass with excellence while also receiving the excellent grades for the assignments I had completed without guidance from the professors. I believe the fact that I had progressed through the year without any influence or criticism from my professors or colleagues allowed me to express myself without bias in composition or method.
It was only after the 1973 Arab-Israeli War had ended that I had the chance to be a full time student. I never really adapted academic methods and I found myself always in search of new ways to express my feelings and imagination with colors and shapes. Again, I was challenging the norms and going against the mainstream learning styles, instead I wanted to innovate, create, and discover art. I exhibited some mono print projects at the culture center in Cairo in 1976 and had a showing with my colleagues at the Cairo Atelier after graduating in 1977.
Shortly after my wife and I graduated from Cairo University, we relocated to Amman to start our life together. I began teaching art in the mornings to support my family and painting at night. This was my first time traveling out of Egypt and my first impression stepping out from the airplane was how entirely different the landscape was from Egypt. There were mountain ranges and the architecture was vertical, one home on top of the other. While living there I started by first developing my art using black and white on paper continually gaining confidence with the long sweeping motion of each brushstroke. I soon began to explore and enhance my work by using a variety of mediums and applying different techniques in my paintings. In the eighties, I began experimenting and painting abstract geometric shapes while using contrasting colors, mixing vivid colors with pastels or dark solid colors. This unexpected combination of colors continues to be an identifying feature in most of my work. At the time, I also incorporated geometric abstract shapes with subject matter from the natural world including cows, donkeys, horses, and village landscapes.
In 1989, my family and I immigrated to the United States, and we began our life in California. I spent a decade as a restaurant owner, not by choice but as a means to support my family. While living in the United States I received support from Suha Shoman, the founder of Darat al Funun-The Khalid Shoman Foundation to paint and exhibit my work in Jordan. In 1996, I accepted the opportunity to stay as an art resident in Darat Al Funun for a month. I produced thirty abstract paintings which broke new ground in terms of composition, shaped canvas, and mixed medium. As soon as the restaurant lease ended in 1999, I decided to close the restaurant and travel to Amman, Jordan where I stayed at Darat Al Funun for four months, producing thirty-three oil paintings and more artwork on shaped canvas. Upon my return to California, I began teaching Arabic and I felt lost, not in a daydream this time, but lost following a career path other than what I had promised myself. I spent my days working which left me hardly enough time to express feelings through my artwork. In 2004 I lost both my parents. In 2006, I was struck with another major loss in my life with the passing of my wife. I went into depression and fell out of touch with myself for almost eleven years.
In 2011, I decided I needed a change; I took three months of unpaid leave and went back to the Middle East. In Amman, I felt a new passion and renewed energy. I had awakened from a deep sleep, and had so many dreams to draw inspiration from. I painted nonstop in Amman, Beirut, and Cairo. Once I returned to the United States, I made the decision to leave my day job permanently, and pursue my dreams and enjoy my creativity.
Most of the time, I begin to draw and paint without seeking a particular subject matter or emphasis on a specific meaning. Often times my feelings and compositions transform as the sunlight dances across the sky, influencing my choices of colors and shapes. I allow the composition to create itself along the way in conjunction with what I’m feeling at that precise moment. I experience an intensity and excitement from creativity expressed through lines and colors. I view each canvas as a puzzle to be solved until it is completed. As I express my feelings on each canvas or medium, it is as if I am beginning new journey, each artwork provokes a different experience and generates a new result. I enjoy listening to music while painting, every so often interpreting the rhythms into movements and colors in my artwork. Once the shapes and figures emerge, and I feel a sense of calm fall over me I know that a painting is complete.
I project happiness through my paintings I look forward for the viewer to complete the motion by connecting and enjoying my artwork. I was blessed with the gift of determination, which got me through many of life’s obstacles making me the artist I am today.