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Artist Feature ://
Ghyda Helou
Posted November 2019

Ghyda Helou is a collage artist based in Lebanon. She studied architecture and urban planning and this helped develop her artistic sense and skills. She noticed early on that poetry and direct impact on people were missing in her studies. Working and experimenting with paper was something that she was passionate about since her childhood and as she dug deeper into the art world, she discovered in herself a talent in visual communication and storytelling.  She started to create her own collage artworks, by mixing and matching cutout papers from books and magazines, in order to tell stories and to create an artistic connection with the viewer.

Ghyda sees collage as a way to express Life as it is: a composition made out of different moments, feelings, people, objects, ages, life styles, meanings, values, colors and tastes to bring a story to life, to recall a unique memory… She considers her work to be like taking photos, but instead of having a picture from the real known world, she creates a photograph made out of emotions, inspired by the pure and simple findings of everyday life.
Windmills of your thoughts’, Ghyda Helou. Magazine cutouts, 2019

Q. What education have you had? How has it impacted your practice?

I have a master’s degree in Architecture and a second one in Urban Planning and both have had a huge impact on my practice. Architecture being part of the many fine art majors, taught me how to perceive space in my work and how to take into consideration the human scale as a very important element in my projects. Architecture introduced me to the concept of poetry in objects. How someone can relate deeply to something because it goes beyond its actual definition, because it represents something different that only them or the people that have had similar experiences can relate to. Therefore, came the idea to take these representations of everyday objects and feelings and try to tell new stories and create new images that capture not the real world but the inner world of each and everyone of us. For example, a ring is not only a ring, for some it represents a commitment for some, for others it is a prison, others see it as society’s constraints and others as love and stability. If we put the ring with something else, let’s say a bird, which represents freedom, lightness, nature, purity, individualism, we will have a contrast of representations, and therefor this visual dualism will strike a conversation.

Urban planning has had, as well, a very important impact on my work. People in the city, how they live, the stories they tell and don’t tell, the tragedies and joys, the difficulties of life and happiness of certain communities… these are things that I needed to get in touch with closely to understand how humans live and to be able to portray better the ways they feel in cities. Places considered to be cold, distant, fast and crowded with strangers. Urban planning helped me understand better these human aspects and to grasp the problematic surrounding living in the city. Plus, Beirut, Lebanon’s capital, is a very diverse city, filled with many religions, parties, life styles and nationalities, so it was important to get closer to them and Urban Planning was a way to realize this.

Dance has had its own share of influence on my work. It helped on developing my sensitivity and artistic creativity. I started from a very young age with ballet, a soft yet hard working and very disciplined kind of dance till I was 22 when I shifted to Latin dance a bit more joyful and rhythmical. All of these dances have helped me to develop my feelings, become more aware of the human side and to close my eyes and be present with my papers while cutting them.

Boom’, Ghyda Helou. Magazine cutouts, 2018

Cold’, Ghyda Helou. Magazine cutouts, 2018  

Q. How does your creative process take place? Tell us the steps of how you complete one of your collages.

The first step is the research and finding materials to work with. I do not like to work with pictures found on the internet, I enjoy the feel of holding real papers in my hands. That is why I visit many bookshops and places where I know I will find books at a good price and I start going through the books there. It is a very long search phase, sometimes it takes me months to buy enough books that I feel will be good for the work.

The second step is sorting the pages. I go through each book I bought and take away the pages and elements that I feel will have a place in my work. I decide purely based on my hunch and my imagination. If something makes me think, or gives me an image in my head, I take it.
The third step is laying all the cutouts on the ground and trying to match the different pieces together in order to tell a story with them. I take into consideration the color palette, the composition, the story behind the piece and the overall impact that it gives.

For the fourth step, I scan my piece with a scanner I have at home. I then take the scanned piece to photoshop to adjust what needs to be adjusted such as flaws, colors or small details. After being done will the pieces I have to clean my room. Seeing everything organized after a very big mess helps preserve my focus and calm.

And voila.

True, it is a very long process, most of the time confusing and chaotic but I keep the faith in the process and in my ability to create something beautiful out of this mess that I am creating.

Freedom’, Ghyda Helou. Magazine cutouts, 2019

Q. Many of your collages include imagery and elements of people. What message are you trying to portray (if any) about humans or individuals?

I get inspired by stories told and lived by people. People are the core of my collages. My work tells stories, of how I think people feel, live, act and react to certain events in life. I get inspired by people, the emotions they feel, and how each can perceive things in their own way. There is no sound if no one hears it. There is no fire if no one sees it, there is no story if no one lives it. My collages reflect how I perceive people perceiving society and their context. It is a very personal work.

Q. What advice would you give to somebody who is interested in working with collage art?

Patience and discipline. I started without anyone asking me to. I learnt from my mistakes and I criticized myself very much, worked on developing my style and I am still doing so. Do not be afraid to try new things, everything you do teaches you something new, don’t let routine get to you, simply innovate and have fun while doing so.

Collage is a niche in the art market, some consider it not worth the investment, but in reality it is a very demanding job. It takes a lot of creativity, sensibility and time to reach a piece that really reflects the artist’s point of view, so if you want to start your way in collage world, don’t get demotivated. Keep your vision clear and do it because you love it, everything else will fall into place as you advance.

Play Bounds’, Ghyda Helou. Magazine cutouts, 2018

Q. If you had the opportunity to have lunch with one artist from any point in history, who would it be and why?

I would love to meet with the artist Kurt Schwitters. He also was an architect and became a collage artist. I want to meet with him because first of all I feel like we have many things in common, so the conversation would be interesting, and also, I would love to discuss with him how he manages to free himself from any composition or restrictions while working. Sometimes I feel that my work is too rational in trying to convey emotions, and I really need to liberate myself from the constraints that bound me, these constraints that I took with me from architecture where everything had to be justified and right in place.

Within’, Exhibition at The Sage Parlour, Ghyda Helou, 2018

︎ @ghyda_helou

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