I first discovered Egyptian painter Amina Salem’s work while walking around Cairo’s Zamalek neighborhood sometime in March 2020. The artist’s fabulous collection of artworks – from buoyant female-themed paintings to eccentric oil-painted female torsos – was exhibited at the Picasso Art Gallery. Amina’s artwork came across as a stunning collage of fabrics and art forms, her paintings demonstrating pop-art elements as well as neat calligraphy. Later on, I would learn that the artworks I saw that night were part of Amina’s solo exhibition “Il Torso”. In many ways, they are an extension of her enduring commitment to representing the female subject in her work.
“I’ve always enjoyed sketching female figures, even before learning how to paint professionally. As I began to study art, I continued to take interest in painting female subjects. There was no particular reason behind this choice. I think it was, and still is, instinctual. I express myself best by painting women,” says Salem.
It is hard to try and observe a painting or sculpture by Amina without noticing her vivid passion for fashion and style. Her female figures are always stunningly dressed, whether in Arab-themed richly-patterned clothing, feminine body-flattering dresses, or funky eccentric outfits. Amina hopes to be able to execute one of her designs one day and have it exhibited next to her paintings. “As much as I’m inspired by women, I’m also motivated by fashion. I draw inspiration from Western and Arab designers alike, and from fashion trends more generally,” Amina adds.
A firm believer that an integral part of a woman’s identity is what she wears and how she wears it, Salem’s best tribute yet to the fashion world has been her “Torso” collection, a range of white polyester torsos flaunting the artist’s fresh take on iconic Renaissance paintings by René Magritte, Amedeo Clemente Modigliani and Leonardo da Vinci. “I love pop art and I enjoy revisiting paintings from the Renaissance period and reproducing them in an eccentric and funky way,” says Amina.
Also part of the “Torso” collection are Amina’s colorful portraits of celebrities, who are fashion icons in their own right. These include Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe and Madonna. “I love Madonna. I was born in the 80s and grew up listening to her music, and I really wanted to celebrate her funkiness. So I painted her on a torso and recreated one of her famous costumes, using black studs,” explains Amina.
In her paintings, Amina also celebrates famous fashion brands, including the French fashion house Louis Vuitton. Her stunning LV collection comprises portraits of women wearing funky sunglasses and rocking the fashion house’s inimitable headscarf. “Stepping into an LV store in Paris almost equates to having a museum experience. I believe that fashion designers are essentially artists, and I profoundly respect their creations,” she explains.
Amina believes that it is a two-way relationship between art and fashion, with fashion designers constantly borrowing ideas from art, especially in recent times, and vice versa. “As of late, fashion has been deeply inspired by art. We’re seeing more graphic t-shirts and other items of clothing with doodles on them or adorned with portraits of famous artists or replicas of famed paintings. There is a strong relationship between art and fashion, and it’s constantly evolving.”