Iraqi Artist Zaina El Said on her Digital Collage Series
Zaina El Said is an Iraqi artist, who excels at exploring the endless possibilities the digital world has to offer. Through her digital collages and prints, El Said’s works endow a surrealistic and unexpected feeling, which leaves the viewer’s imagination to wander. Her artworks carry a beautiful timelessness: no time era or space is visible. We sat with Zaina to learn more about her divine works and what they represent.
EMERGEAST: Who is Zaina El Said?
Zaina El Said: I was born and raised in Jordan to a family of artists, architects, and designers. Although I hold a BA in Business Administration from AIU-London, it seems the dominant atmosphere I was brought up in helped pave my career in the world of arts. I find it hard to explain who I am in words, but I like to think that my work identifies my character.
E: Tell us about your digital prints versus your hand-cut collages. Did your collages come before your digital work?
ZES: My digital prints came after working with handmade collage art. I initially began cutting out images from magazines, illustrated books, fabrics, vintage postcards, and any material I came across, which I saw suitable to create a collage.
Handmade collage, in my opinion, is more challenging versus digital, in terms of research and finding accurate dimensions. Moreover, the natural effect and elements of different paper texture seen in one collage lends uniqueness to the artwork. It becomes more alive. Working with digital prints, on the other hand, eased and facilitated working with dimensions of images I require for a collage. It is also faster and provides a world of endless choices. It’s easier to combine colours, textures, effects, and calligraphy.
E: Do you have a preference in working with one style over the other?
ZES: Both handmade and digital complement each other, and each contain unique techniques and results. My preference at present is combining both handmade and digital in my collages.
E: How do you choose the subject matter for your work?
ZES: I am inspired by everything beautiful. But when I create a theme for a collection, it is usually triggered by a specific character (usually a historical one), a painting or landscape. So, yes, once I find solid inspiration, I begin collecting material relevant to the subject matter and slowly weave the theme into a collage. However, I do have many pieces that are created by absolute random images. I really enjoy creating something with contradicting images and colours.
E: In your opinion, what role does the digital sphere play in shaping the art landscape of the 21st century?
ZES: Digital artwork is one facet, which translates the fast-paced characteristic of the 21st century. Life has become one speed machine, hence digital art is a result of our ever-changing world.
E: How does the label of a Middle Eastern artist shape your artistic path — does identity play a role in your production?
ZES: Most definitely it plays a major role in my works of art. Our region is rich in ancient history, art, and architecture. We are the inheritors of a thousand-year-old culture that overflows with profound inspirational elements. Being brought up in the Middle East, and being familiar with its historical and contemporary facets, my works are unintentionally inspired by this region. Despite living in a time where one might say that some aspects of our contemporary Middle Eastern culture and identity have become “borrowed” from the West, it can be viewed as a beautiful inspiration and a combination, which has created a new unique identity that can be described as global.
E: What are your plans for the upcoming year?
ZES: I have a few projects coming, including two upcoming themed exhibitions this year in the region. I continue to do side works as well, and I’m currently commissioned to do a 20-piece collage collection inspired by Ottoman Turkey (Osmanli Turkiye).