This is your first exhibition in Sweden. Can you tell the audience about yourself?
NM: I was born in Syria. I left my country 24 years ago and I moved to the Netherlands. I studied arts in my homeland and I also studied arts at the AKI Academy in Enschede, the Netherlands. I moved to Sweden five years ago.
When and why did you start to paint?
NM: I have always loved to paint, ever since I was a child. It has always been a part of me. I feel like it is in my blood and I have always been drawn to it, almost like magnetism.
Can you explain what you currently are exhibiting at Södertälje konsthall?
NM: You see the new collection at Södertälje konsthall. My latest works shows what is happening in the world in general, it shows my perspective on a global level. I want to bring you, the audience, into my world. There is a rhythm and a cycle. This rhythm and cycle shows how humanity has always lived in masses and still are living to this day. When I first started, the idea came from how the masses live. What I see is that there is no difference between humanity and the animals. Animals are killed for commercial reasons in masses and humans are also killed in masses by natural disasters or genocides and war. The theme of the masses is very present in my work. Our destiny is the same during such events as we both get killed when a natural disaster happens. When you look at my paintings you have to look very close to distinguish if this is a human or an animal? As the movement of global events applies both to humans and animals. I want to make the viewers conscious of this rhythm so that we can break out of this cycle.
You work mostly in big scales, why is that? And why have you chosen to work with paintings as your technique for your artistry?
NM: First of all when I paint I feel the art I am making is bigger than me. I feel that the message I want to send out has to be shown in such a way that it is real. I do not want to minimize this as I want my viewers to experience the truth of life. I use the stamps as I feel this reflects the truth of life. When I use a stamp I cannot undo this anymore just like death. The process of the stamps is very important to me. I feel that this technique is like a documentary in an artistic way as my paintings always reflect the themes of humanity. What I also find very important in my technique of stamps is the method. I have experimented with this and I do not use a machine and so this [method] is unique as I have developed it myself.
You work a lot with suffering as a theme and that it is connected to trauma. Can you elaborate it? Why is suffering a central theme in your paintings?
NM: Suffering is always a theme for every human being alive. I grew up with the trauma of my mother and my mother with her mother’s trauma. This is intergenerational trauma passed on and I want to break this cycle by making everybody conscious of it. As you know I am Assyrian and my ancestors experienced the Seyfo [genocide] in 1914 and 1915 in Turkey. I grew up with these stories. My mother had lost her parents during the genocide and her father’s family were all killed. When she died she said ”I see the people as masses.” I asked her what do you mean? She said ”It is Seyfo.” She lived [with] the trauma until her last breath. My ideas come from not only our Seyfo but also from the Holocaust and many other genocides. It doesn’t matter to which race or ethnicity it happened as long as we see that this happens to all of humanity globally.
Women seem to be a central theme in your paintings. Do you want to explain why?
NM: When you come from a country which is torn apart and has suffered because of war or a genocide you always notice that the women are also very broken. I also have a collection about the women of the Yezidi people when IS had taken them as sex slaves. This seems like women’s destiny during a genocide or war. Women who lose their husbands have to raise their families in such difficult situations. I want to show respect for their hardships by showing you their pain.
You describe your art as political. In what way is it political?
NM: I want to show the truth. I want to document humanity’s suffering. I do this in my art and show you the naked truth.
The color black is central in your paintings, but you can also see elements of colors like red, green and orange. Is it a conscious or unconscious choice that you have chosen these colors?
NM: When you take a closer look at the paintings the color is not black. I use many dark shades with highlights of orange, red, green etc. I use these colors too, because I feel there is always hope. This shows you that there is always a solution for the problems that I want to showcase in my art.
I think that your paintings are very strong and they really affected me. What do you want the audience to bring with them after they have experienced your art?
NM: I want to create awareness for people. Hopefully it raises questions around the theme of humanity and that people are seized because of the paintings.
Text by Daniella Maraui