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Interview with Syrian Artist: Mariam Hussein

Image of Mariam Hussein by Massimiliano Giorgeschi. Courtesy of the artist.

Meet Mariam Hussein, an emerging mixed media artist who you all should have on your radar! Her artwork is captivating, with a rich dark color palette and incredible technique filled with energetic lines and swirls in which she paints the human figure. Mariam has a Bachelor's degree in Business and Marketing from Oxford Brookes University and a Master's degree (M.A.) in Contemporary Art from Sotheby's Institute of Art, London. She currently lives and works in London, UK.

I had the pleasure of interviewing her to learn more about her practice…

What’s your cultural background? And how has it influenced you as an artist?

I was born in Saudi Arabia to Syrian parents and have lived in England for around12 years...I'm a true Londoner at heart.

When I was growing up in Saudi there were limits to drawing nudity. When moving to the UK in 2010, I discovered Life Drawing classes and have since, been exploring and expressing the nude figure in my work. I also started to use art as a way to express my conflicting struggles as the war in Syria was developing at the same time as my move. Ever since, my work has been a way to express my observations of the world around me, and of myself.

Art work by Mariam Hussein. Courtesy of the artist.

When did you first discover you wanted to be an artist?

As cliché as it may sound since I was a little tiny person. I'd make my mama cute little cards using leather, velvet, and all sorts of materials and I'd tell her that I'd be an artist someday.

Image of Mariam Hussein by Massimiliano Giorgeschi. Courtesy of the artist.

Can you walk us through what a day in your life as an artist looks like?

I live a pretty normal life where I work a full-time job in an office (mostly work from home), I'll finish around 6.00 pm on most days, make my dinner, and I'll reflect on my day.

It's in the evenings or on weekends that I make art. The majority of my work is about my reflections on everyday life and my psyche. Things that give me ideas can vary from being a simple encounter on the London Underground to thoughts that I have about what the meaning of life can be, or a warm conversation that I've had with a friend.

Art work by Mariam Hussein. Courtesy of the artist.

Where do you find inspiration to create?

Making art from day 1 has been a way of survival. It is a space where I can express my feelings and thoughts with limited use of verbal communication. It is silent. I do not need to verbally discuss it unless, of course, someone asks me questions about it. So for me, art has been a way to communicate, relate, and connect with others, especially when my mental state may limit me in doing so verbally. I go through anxiety and depression regularly, like many others. Sometimes I get bored of that performative social being character. But through art, I don't need to worry about maintaining a certain character, I can just be myself.

Image of Mariam Hussein by Massimiliano Giorgeschi. Courtesy of the artist.

What art movements have influenced your worldview and the way you create art?

I appreciate all sorts of art movements, but the ones that speak to me and my work the most are the Expressionist and Art Brut movements.

One of my favorite artists is Edvard Munch, who is part of both the Expressionist and Symbolism movements. He was known to cover difficult topics around the darker side of life; emotions, illness, death, pain.

Art Brut speaks to me because it is an art that is (mostly) free from institutional or mainstream influence. It is straight to the point and uncomplicated.

Both movements carry the subjectivity and the enhancement of the emotional side to art that I like to highlight in my work.

Art work by Mariam Hussein. Courtesy of the artist.

Final question, if you could only have one piece of art in your life, what would it be and why?

Any one of the 6 versions of Love and Pain by Edvard Munch (1895). Have you seen the colors on these?! It's hard not to want one. They were the first paintings that taught me about layering oil paint.

Thank you for reading!

Make sure to follow Mariam on Instagram here: @mariamhusseinart


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