Zaina, based in Jordan, is a young aspiring artist working primarily with collage and digital prints. Her work is heavily influenced by regional Arab culture, folklore and Islamic geometry. She uses found imagery to create a narrative through surreal collage paintings. She says 'the pleasure in working with collage is the sublime timelessness each piece presents. The unexpected feeling upon viewing the work can often resemble a dream where no time or space is visible.'

Path of Least Resistance, 16.5 x 24 inches, Digital collage on epson paper, Unique, $800 

Exclusive interview with Bahaar: Zaina chats with Mariam about art, life and more

When did you begin your career as an artist?

I began my art practice in 2010. Initially I was painting Arab regional themes mainly Islamic geometry and calligraphy. It wasn’t until 2014 that I shifted my style to collage art. I started creating collages with hand-cut bits out of magazines, postcards and old books. I then started experimenting digitally by transforming my collages on the computer and came to the realization that a combination of the two was what I was looking for.

Where do you find inspiration for your work? 

I find inspiration for my work through ancient cultures, architecture, patterns and embroidery. Historical characters and their legend also fascinate me and have a huge presence in my collages. There is layers of of folklore and pop culture in my work that bring these pieces to life.

Zaina El Said Art Bahaar
Portrait III, 24 x 33 inches, Digital collage and silkscreen on paper, Unique, $1,100

Tell us a little bit about your favourite artists.

There are so many artists I look up to but Hassan Hajjaj, Adel Abidin, Ehsan Nasri and Fahr El Nissa Zeid would be the top four.

Hajjaj’s work always inspires me in his genuine yet brilliant choice of color contrast and symmetry; he has managed to show raw North African culture in the most exciting ways.

Abidin’s work whether in form of video installation, sculpture or photography has brilliantly conveyed the complex relationship between visual arts and politics & identity.

Being very fond of Persian culture, arts and architecture, Nasri’s work combines the magnificence of bygone era of that region entwined with a contemporary twist and his view of that world.

Fahr El Nissa to me is the basis of my interest in art, her profound works are a reminder of timelessness that are not restricted to a specific day and age. Her worldly works and views have been a backbone in the development of my art.

I have been very fortunate that all of them have been part of my life on a personal level and owe much to their persistent encouragement and guidance in my art career.

Hassan Hajjaj Art Bahaar Ehsan Nasri 

    1. Hassan Hajjaj, Joe Casely Hayford
    2. Adel Abidin, Tasty
    3. Ehsan Nasri, Circle of Red
    4. Fahr El Nissa Zeid, Break of the Atom and Vegetal life

As an artist in the digital age, do you find there is enough support for contemporary emerging artists from the Middle East and South Asia? 

I think as digital art is rapidly gaining popularity, there has been a surplus of support to young emerging artists from my genre. The art world has provided emerging artists like myself with various types of platforms to showcase their work locally and internationally. It has been an extremely encouraging time to be present and aware as a young artist.

What is your message to other young aspiring artists?

Pursue what they love most!

If you could divide your week up into 3 activities, what would they be?

Primarily it would have to be collecting images and going through materials for my work.

Martial arts is one important activity that I practice throughout the week and reading is quite essential to me too. 

Tell us about your earliest memory of visiting a gallery or museum.

I remember visiting the Natural History Museum in London at the age of 5 or 6. The view of Dippy in the Hintze hall was one of the first remarkable experiences that I recall. 

The Museum's Diplodocus skeleton cast (known affectionately as Dippy)

If you could create an artwork on commission for a historical figure, who would it be and why?

It would be Jalaludin Rumi. I have always been very fond of his writings and poetry, as well as general interest in Sufism. I would love to translate his ideas in the form of an artwork. To convey his perception of transcendence through images is something I will look forward to in a commissioned work. 

Zaina El Said Art Bahaar
Lawrence III, 16.5 x 24 inches, Digital collage and silkscreen on epson paper, AP, $850

Your works are fascinating and full of layers of images and stories. Guide us through the lifespan of a piece from the moment of conception to completion.

I have recently completed work for Miyamoto Musashi, the legendary Samurai swordsman. This work came into being following reading his book “The Book of Five Rings”. It took around 2 weeks to find proper imagery that related to my understanding of his writings. I initially compose how i want to present the piece in my mind and gradually begin building digital layers of imagery. The main character appears in the beginning, and I slowly construct the story line around it by adding illustrations to convey the idea intended for that particular work.