Did you actually produce any paintings during election year or did the strain take its toll on your artistic output?
I produced absolutely nothing throughout the period of the UNESCO elections... There was simply no time for artistic expression. As a matter of fact, since my last exhibition in January I practically stopped painting... except for one or two works at the most since I was completely immersed in work commitments, various studies, traveling, and meetings as well as seeking a new approach that would better serve the Organization's interests. All this, of course, was in addition to my ministerial duties.
So, have you now gone back to your artistic pursuits? And is your annual Exhibition set for early 2010 as usual?
Yes, I'm back to art with a vengeance. In fact my exhibition is held according to schedule. The works exhibited are totally new in concept, as well.
So, has this been your longest 'art-free' period?
No, the longest one lasted two years, which was when I was appointed Minister of Culture.
Can you describe to us the states you experience before and after artistic inspiration?
In other words, is there any difference between these two states?
When I'm in the middle of a period of artistic creativity, I'm consumed by a kind of hunger. I feel a sense of triumph if the work really pleases me. If it Doesn't, I'm completely deflated. In parallel, if the work achieves affinity with my innermost depths, I experience something approaching self-redemption.
So, at that precise moment, do you feel completely liberated?
Actually, there's always this sense of freedom within me despite the shackles that come with this job...I can't, for example, hang out at a public coffee house like normal people do or even go to the movies. Away from the work environment, of course, I do feel free to a large extent or so I like to imagine.
You have your own individual approach to color. You've actually said that when abstraction becomes a form of expressionism, color is transformed into a kind of musical symphony that manifests itself on the canvas. Can you tell us something?
About the special relationship between yourself and color, particularly black?
Feelings and emotions tend to express themselves through colors of their own choosing. In this sense, I don't see black as one distinct color but, rather, as a set of colors...a set of emotions that burst through in sync. Here, black becomes a celebratory color while spatial elements define the actual shade of color. Actually, it is the color black which reveals the features of the painting. Since black is the defining color, it has its own character and presence. So, in a sense, black defines all the other elements and asserts itself by providing shadowing, thus superimposing its presence over the entire work. If black ranks as King, then white is the Crown Prince. In between these two lie all the other colors.
The French 'Beaux Arts' magazine has included your name in its list of the 70 most influential artists in the Fine Art Movement around the world. What does this distinction mean to you?
When I heard the news, my initial reaction was one of disbelief. I kept wondering how such a magazine could have actually assembled on paper all the artists working in this field. Or could my selection have been a random choice? I know for a fact that the world boasts no fewer than 200 such artists. In spite of my own doubts on this score, I was, of course, deeply honored and gratified to have been chosen, despite my aversion to awards in general. As a matter of fact, I categorically dislike taking part in competitions of any sort. The one award I have to my name actually came about by a mere fluke. This was back in 1972 at the International Fine Art Festival in France. Since the Egyptian nominees failed to show up, the Festival's organizers asked me to step in by way of saving face. To my great surprise, I was given the award.
To rap up, how do you see the year 2010 from an artistic dimension?
If we look at the actual numbers making up this date, we find that the zero digits appearing at the beginning and ending have a special meaning that signals a sense of hope and achievement. Actually, the digit zero is far from being nothing at all since it has the distinction of preceding all other numbers as well as marking beginnings and endings - an interpretation that I wholeheartedly support.