Egyptian artist Amir Yacoub creates sculptures that are, all at once, the epitome of powerful and free. By utilizing negative space for a streamlined effect, he produces pieces that embrace all the curves, lines, and angles on an animal's physique, adding an artistic touch to their representation. Yacoub consequently showcases his subject's inner strength and beauty, making his work appear as though it's about to come alive.
Arguably, the most striking piece in the artist's body of work is his sculpture titled Thor. Using a fierce bull as his muse, Yacoub establishes an interesting visual balance between his materials and the vacant spaces in between. Though a bull is traditionally a massive, intimidating creature, the artist manages to give this powerful animal a touch of elegance and grace, softening its coarse, aggressive exterior. The sculpture presents a refreshing duality of solid strength and relieving freedom. It's this contrast that defines the artist's dynamic work.
We were lucky enough to get in contact with Amir and learn more about the inspiration, influence, and process. Scroll down to read that exclusive interview.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I was born and raised in Cairo, Egypt. In 2004, I received a Bachelor of Fine Arts with honors from Cairo's Faculty of Fine Arts. I've been living and working in Basel, Switzerland since 2013. I am a visual artist, specialized in sculptures. But I also do design, architectural art, and I love any artistic challenge that comes my way.
Egypt and Switzerland seem to have different art scenes. How would you say your cultural background has influenced your work?
The cultural background of my artistic education is based on the unique school of Ancient Egyptian art. That art is characterized by its stability, which allowed its pieces to stay preserved and steady for thousands of years. At the end of the nineteenth century, modern art emerged in Egypt through the ever-growing western influence. Nonetheless, Egyptian artists are still strongly influenced by the static character of Pharaonic art.
Within my body of work, especially in sculptures, the mass is always thirsty for freedom and movement, while still staying true to the basic rules of Pharaonic sculpture.
Can you tell us more about your Thor sculpture? What inspired you to create it?
I designed the first version of the Thor sculpture in 2000. The newest version is made of polyester and colored with nickel chrome spray. (Initially, I sculpt with clay and then cast a negative out of gips that allow me to create the polyester positive.) Thor is my personal depiction of power and freedom.
What other animal sculptures have you created?
I created a dog, a lion, a panther, a jaguar, a horse, and a deer.
Is there something about those specific animals that makes for a great sculpture?
Those animal have a few things in common: I love their appearance, they are majestic, charming, and elegant. They represent power, intelligence, and agility.
When you're sculpting, are there any goals you try to achieve?
The goals I try to achieve while sculpting are:
1. The equilibrium (stability and balance).
2. The relationship between the mass and the vacuum.
3. The connection of lines and spaces.
4. The melting of shadow and light.
I am very meticulous and a perfectionist with my work. I always aim for aesthetic perfection.
What tools do you use to produce your sculptures?
This question is difficult to answer because I use so many… From simple tools like knives and wire to heavy machinery… I use every tool that seems fit!
You share several of your sketches on Instagram. How important is sketching to your process?
My sculptures always start off as a sketch. They allow me to create the vision of an idea. I then complement the drawing with measurements and technical details that help me build the framework from iron. When sculpting with clay, I adapt and change my initial creation, but I always look to my sketch to stay focused on my vision and lines.
How important is maintaining a balance between the physical sculpture and empty space to you?
I believe that the sculptor is the real owner of empty space. Never underestimate empty space. My sculptures maintain the balance between mass, representing power and movement, and empty space. The empty space sets the massive bulk free.
Are you currently working on anything in particular?
I am currently working on some pieces that will allow me to have my first solo exhibition, here in Basel, Switzerland.
What do you want viewers to take away from your work?
I want my viewers to not be able to take their eyes off of my art pieces.
My Modern Met granted permission to use photos by Amir Yacoub.