Lawrence of Arabia holds a towering ice-cream cone as rabbits look on and jesters jibe. Rasputin floats like a deity over Saturn, with Lenin’s gang below, all bordered by the golden arches of burgers and fries. Modern surrealism is at play in Somewhere, a Qajar hanging on the telephone, while an antelope pauses beneath. These images are laden with other images, there is no white space. Welcome, then, to the alternate universes of collage artist Zaina El-Said.
“For the longest time, I have focused on producing pieces that combine and reveal beauty from world cultures, civilisations and historical figures…to show the innovation of the human race and how it can be weaved together in a single portrait, as if connecting humans together through culture, folklore, arts and architecture,” she says.
The power of her images is in the many details, and the neat ensembles that result from this hybrid approach. “I continuously look for new ideas to make my work more interesting not only to the viewer, but to myself. I started with handmade collage, then digital, and shortly after, combining both digital and hand-cut collage together. Currently I am adding silkscreen and relief effects to my work, as it produces more vivid results. Moreover, in collaboration with animators, I have been transforming my collage work to animated videos,” she says of her rapidly evolving processes. Zaina is worth following on social media, her Instagram reflecting a prolific output.
The subjects of her current works have jumped into the sobering realities of the present day, the bombings in Baghdad and fighting in Aleppo. Karrada depicts the sorrow and strangeness through the Pietà, Dalí, spaceships and the words “I’m Sorry” lit up 1950s-style. Born and based in Amman, Jordan, she’s currently part of a Group Exhibitions at Nabad Art Gallery there.