The work of Kareem Rizkis highly textured and often multi-layered with a nostalgic and weathered quality. His works can often be vibrant with colour, while others display a very refined or minimal palette. Working methods also extend to digital collage with a very gritty and realistic display of texture and layering. The digital work began as an experiment in blurring the line between handmade collage and digital collage. We are excited to bring these 5 original pieces of artwork to 1xRUN for Kareem Rizk’s debut with the ’62 Grand Prix Series. Read on as Kareem gives us the story behind his artwork and processes, past influences and a ton more in the latest installation of the 1xRUN Thru Interview below…
1xRUN Thru Interview
’62 Grand Prix by Kareem Rizk
1xRun: Tell us a bit about these pieces, when were they created? What materials were used?
Kareem Rizk: This series of multiples has been created exclusively for 1xRUN. They’re the first pieces I’ve produced on birch, previously I’ve used Pine for my panels. But I find that Birch is a much nicer wood for making panels. It’s much smoother and has a much more dense grain allowing for a much more professional finish when made by hand. This series of unique multiples was completed in July 2012 with collage and acrylic on cradled birch wood panels. The birch panels are handmade by me. All the main images and numbers were hand-cut and pasted down onto the wood panel with acid-free PVA glue. However, the samples of typography in the circles were first adhered to the surface with gel medium. Then the counter spaces and outer areas were cut out with an X-acto hobby knife while the gel was drying. The initial composition and color schemes were decided in Photoshop. (Only a fraction of my entire body of work is computer generated in Photoshop. My digital collages started out as an exploration in generating many of the tactile and textural qualities of handmade collages. As a result there’s been some confusion now and then about how my work is made and whether it is predominantly handmade or digital.) Paint swatches from a local hardware store assisted with mixing accurate colors. My inspiration for the selected colors was drawn mostly from some of my old magazines from the 1960’s, but each color was selected individually (none of the color schemes were already in the magazines).
I decided that all the selected color schemes should be complimentary on the color wheel so that there was a good level of contrast in each piece. Colors are a fundamental aspect in my work. My color palettes often tend to be quite muted, dusty or pastel. In fact, most colours I mix have white in them. I’m often borrowing specific color tones from old magazines from the 60’s and 70’s because many of the pages in these magazines can often be sun bleached, faded or water damaged so the colors tend to be more subtle, dirty or quite unsaturated. Methods of applying texture and markings were varied for each piece. White paint applied to the edge of a piece of wood was pressed against the background to create streaks or rough broken lines. Bits of press cuttings were glued onto various areas of the background layers then sanded and scratched back to create the weathered and distressed textures. When the press cuttings are glued down with gel medium this often creates a reversed ink transfer, depending on how much paper is worn down from sanding. So the results can look random or uncontrollable but in actual fact, with practice these methods have become very controllable. The finished artworks are sealed with 2 coats of Golden brand gel medium.
1xRun: Tell us how the idea and execution came about?
Kareem Rizk: First of all the main image was selected from my image library. I’ve got a huge archive of images that I’ve been collecting over the last 4 years. They’re all categorized by a number of different subjects e.g. transport, people, typography, design elements, furniture, animals etc. They’re all stored in boxes, draws or packets. Most of my image collection has been sourced from old magazines and books. But some have been scanned and stored digitally and a handful has been found on the internet. For this series I decided to access my digital archive as I had the old image of the Pontiac Grand Prix put aside. I had wanted to use this image for a while and it seemed to be the perfect opportunity when I was browsing images for my first run with 1xRUN. In the original image there was a lake and trees behind the car.
It was a very nostalgic image but what really spoke to me was the shape and character of the car. After the background was removed the image still held up equally on its own. The iconic white wall tires created a very nice extra point of contrast, including many of the other details on the car such as the side trim, the headlights and the grill. When I choose a main image I always look at the level of contrast, the definition in the print quality (which can often determine how much the image can be enlarged on a photocopier) and also the shape of the image and the lines. I always look for dynamic images. I never sketch ideas for handmade works on paper and I very rarely sketch ideas for bigger works on wood or canvas. If ever I decide to plan or design a composition I usually trial the idea in Photoshop using basic design elements, sample images and sample typography. My works almost always develop as I’m working on them, even from the very beginning. My working process is very spontaneous and open for changes. I enjoy the fact that I very rarely know how a piece will look in the end until I feel that no more needs to be added. This method of working also relies very much on intuition.
1xRun: How long did these pieces take?
Kareem Rizk: All five pieces took about 2 weeks from start to finish.
1xRun: What is unique about these pieces?
Kareem Rizk: It’s the first series of multiples I’ve produced with completely predetermined color schemes. I spent quite a bit of time selecting specific color combinations and mixing the colors to get them exactly how I wanted them. I did this by using house paint catalogues and paint swatches. Each piece is entirely unique – not only because of the color schemes and numbers, but also because each piece has many different markings, textures and other individual details.
Kareem Rizk: Making art is the only thing I really want to do. It is what has defined my life for at least the last 5 years. I love making art and lots of people get enjoyment from my art. Since the beginning I’ve put almost everything I’ve had and almost everything I’ve earned into pursuing my passion for making art. In this sense the process and production of my work has been very emotionally charged. Like so many other artists I’ve taken countless risks and sacrificed an incredible amount during this continuous journey. If nothing else, a purchase will be supporting an emerging artist who truly believes in what he is doing and who will continue doing it for as long as he is physically capable of doing it.
1xRun: Describe these pieces in one gut reaction word.
Kareem Rizk: Gritty.
1xRun: When did you first start making art? What was your first piece?
Kareem Rizk: 2005. I can’t remember exactly which piece was my very first but I know that one of the first pieces I made was “Powder Room.” I think in this piece you can see much more of the influence I had from the Brazilian artist and illustrator, Eduardo Recife. It had more of the Renaissance or Victorian aesthetic and surreal tone that his work often carries and possibly a hint of Dada.
1xRun: What artists inspired you early on?
Kareem Rizk: Eduardo Recife, a.k.a. Misprinted Type. He was my biggest inspiration in the very beginning. I had seen his work online when I was still doing my Bachelor of Design at university in 2004. Later on when I explored his work further I was mesmerized. I was very impressed with his ability to shift successfully from very complex or detailed compositions to very simple and striking compositions. The textures in his work were very absorbing and moreish. I’ll take this opportunity to say thank you again to Eduardo for making such cool collages and for being such a big inspiration. I might not have pursued my initial interest in collage with such vigor if it weren’t for his work. There are too many extra artists to list but some of my most prominent additional inspirations were Robert Mars, Mario Wagner, Charles Wilkin, Fred Free, Eva Han, Brandon McLean , THS and Glen Moust.
1xRun: What artists inspire you now?
Kareem Rizk: I’m still inspired today by almost all the same artists that inspired me early on. Most of us have been following each other’s work as we’ve progressed in quite a communal way. But my list of inspirations has since been extended by artists such as Cecil Touchon, Sunny Belliston Taylor (especially her works from 2008, Mary Iverson – in particular her earlier more simplified and textural geometric works and more recent discoveries, Steven Schreiber and Jesse Draxler just to name a few. I’m particularly fond of these artists’ refined abilities in using either planes of texture or color, sophisticated color palettes and strong lines or angles – and often all at once.
1xRun: Do you listen to music while you work? If so what? If not then what is your environment like when you work?
Kareem Rizk: Most of the time. I listen to old rock, ska, reggae, soul, funk, jazz, rap, hip hop, 80’s, latin, old pop, a tiny bit of classical and the occasional soundtracks‚ mostly stuff by Paul Hertzog or Vangelis. More recently I’ve had movies playing in the background while working. I rarely see the screen they’re playing on but they’re always movies that I’ve seen about 100 times like The Burbs, Uncle Buck or Trading Places. Then sometimes I’ll have live comedy shows playing like Bill Hicks or Dave Chappelle or cartoons like Family Guy and South Park.
1xRun: If you could collaborate with any living artist who would it be and why?
Kareem Rizk: I’d probably like to collaborate with Eduardo Recife again but this time using only traditional mediums. We collaborated in 2008 and created a very detailed and layered digital collage so it would be nice to follow up with a handmade piece. I’d also like to eventually follow up on a collaborative piece that Robert Mars and I got the ball rolling on a while back but didn’t have the time to continue.
1xRun: If you could collaborate with any deceased artists who would it be and why?
Kareem Rizk: Maybe Kurt Schwitters. He seemed to rarely use press imagery in his collage work and it was very much about strong geometry. I’ve often imagined how it would look if both of our styles of collage collided and we merged our interests in dynamic composition, color, texture and typography. I really like his work and it would be cool to also see how he would transpose his style to a larger scale as I have. I’d also love to produce a collage or mixed media piece of an interior with Richard Hamilton. I love interiors and using images of furniture with panels of color, strong angles and emphasized perspective. So I love the angles and lines in Hamilton’s works such as “Interior I” and “Interior II.”
1xRun: What was the first piece of art that you bought? Do you still have it?
Kareem Rizk: The first piece I bought was a handmade collage by a British artist named Oscar Gaynor. The piece is titled “Mind Control Tactics.” I still have it.
1xRun: What was the last piece of art that you bought?
Kareem Rizk: “Hot New Weapon” by Robert Mars. I bought it from a group show that I co-curated and had works featured in a while back at Retrospect Galley in Byron Bay, Australia. The show was called “Retroism” and it also featured artists such as Eduardo Recife, Julien Pacaud, Mario Wagner, Charles Wilkin, Handiedan and Nick Morris. Greg Lamarche from New York and Kevin Cyr were also keen to be in that show but their hectic schedules wouldn’t permit.
1xRun: What else do you have in the works? What else have you been up to?
Kareem Rizk: I was just recently confirmed as an exhibiting artist for the London Art Fair which opens in January 2013. I will be represented there by Anna Smithson Gallery. Very soon I’ll start working on new original pieces for an upcoming 4 person show in Australia titled “Alterations, Disturbances and Rips”. It’s a sequel to a previous show of the same name which was on display in December 2011 at Ambush Gallery in Sydney. The sequel show will open at RTIST Gallery in Melbourne on November 15th. I’ll also be working on a couple of new pieces for another group show in Brisbane, Australia titled “Shoot” which opens on October 5th at Antonia Kelly Gallery. The show is a celebration of the camera, its history and its many facets through print, including film. The show will consist of several large format prints up to 24″ x 33″ (60 x 85 cm). After my private solo exhibition at the National Bank of Denmark in July this year I have a number of works which will be put on display at an old and kind of famous restaurant in Copenhagen called Kaffesalonen in September. The restaurant’s history dates back to the 1930’s and has maintained the same name since. It’s a busy restaurant which is currently being expanded. A number of known Danish people and city crowds go there so it will be an extra opportunity to build on my public exposure in Copenhagen. I’ll very soon start producing a new series of handmade collages on paper. I also have an idea for a series of mixed media works on panels I’d like to begin based on fictional logos from the 60’s and 70’s. There will be a prominent focus on typography ‚ mostly display and script fonts with a vintage/nostalgic aesthetic and strong graphic design elements.