Architect, interior designer and founder of the Egyptian design studio "Z line Dezine," artist Mohamed Mostafa Radwan from Maadi, Egypt has gained the attention of magazines and online blogs all over Egypt for his Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice selected mural. Inspired by art deco, Arabic calligraphy, comic art and street art during the Egyptian Revolution, this multi-talented artist decided to pick up the spray can and decorate the walls of his city with his political expression. Radwan has been hard at work focused on two new projects, one involving Arabic calligraphy and another collaborating with a prominent Egyptian street artist. We caught up with him about his creative process, favorite artists and his go-to spray cans.
TH: Can you tell us a bit about yourself? What do you do?
MR: I’m Mohamed Mostafa Radwan, a 35 years old Egyptian Architect & Interior Designer, Founder of The Egyptian Design Studio: Z line Dezine (zlinedezine.net), I have also explored the field of Graphic Design & Digital Art, and I Lectured in a number of Universities (Arab Academy for Science and technology, & The American University in Cairo among others).
TH: How/when did you start creating your street art/digital artwork?
MR: I’ve taken interest in digital art early on during my study of Architecture, back then the big thing was Deviant Art, which was a platform for digital artists to showcase there work, and I had an account on deviant since 2005. Ever since then I took interest in digital art.
I started taking interest in street art also during that time, when I heard about Banksy and his visit to the Palestinian territories. Later on during 2008, I was publishing a youth magazine called Zed mag, and we did a feature on graffiti as a new global form of expression, and during my research for that piece, I got very intrigued by Shepard Fairey’s OBEY Giant, Os Gemeos, King Robbo others.
During the Egyptian Revolution, Egypt witnessed an explosion of street art, as Graffiti became a popular form of political expression, at first I was satisfied with being a spectator, but as the revolution progressed, I felt the need to use it as a way to express my own political views and convictions. I started spraying stencil graffiti in 2013, and have been experimenting with the medium as a form of both art and expression since then.
TH: What inspires your artwork?
MR: As I said, I consider graffiti and street art a form of expression before it is an art… or rather an art with a strong social message. Therefore, what motivates it naturally has to be a cause or a topic which I have strong feelings about, whether it is political, social or even purely artistic; it has to be a topic I deeply care about.
As for inspirations, it really does depend on the topic, but generally I draw inspirations from a wide array of artistic and visual mediums. I particularly have deep emotional ties with the Art nouveau movement, Art Deco, Arabic Calligraphy, Comic Art (of comic books), as well as the work of other street artists.
TH: What is your creative process like?
MR: Well that’s normally a hard question for any designer/artist, because each artwork/project has its own process and flow really. But when it comes to street art, as I said it has to be a topic I’m motivated by, so it has to pose a certain challenge or communicate a certain message… I start with that… what do I want to say from this work, and what is the shortest way to say it? What is the core idea? After I figure that out, I start researching, searching for both an artistic language and looking for sources of inspiration. Then I start experimenting with different compositions and elements, I usually generate as many options as possible, and then cut them down to 2 or 3. The final stage is developing these 2 or 3 options into a semi-final digital art work, and since I mainly do stencil graffiti that maybe easier than other forms of graffiti art, because I develop the digital art fully, before going into execution. The last stage is choosing one of these options, and that is sometimes harder than creating them!
TH: Do you have a favorite artist that has inspired you?
MR: Well not one artist, but rather a few, in street art I’m inspired by Ganzeer, El Seed, Banksy & a number of other Egyptian and International artists. In art in general I’m a big fan of the art of Gustav Klimt, Yoshitaka Amano & David McKean.
TH: What was the inspiration for your Batman v Superman graffiti art installation?
MR: Besides the movie itself, I am a big fan of Batman, so that’s probably one reason I was motivated by this creative invite, and surely the comic book “The Dark Knight Returns” was a source of inspiration for the graffiti. I also tried to express the difference in characters and symbolisms of the two Heroes. Hence I chose the split face portrait while flipping the negative and positive space to differentiate between the darkness of Batman, as opposed to Superman, who is (in my view) a more lighthearted superhero.
TH: If you could collaborate with anyone from the past or present, who would that be?
MR: It would be El Seed or Banksy.
TH: What type of spray cans do you use for your street art?
MR: In the past I used any type (whichever available), but lately I have been using Montana Black cans, and I have to say they are excellent spray cans.
TH: Do you have any projects you are currently working on, or planning on doing?
MR: I am currently working on two projects, one where I’m experimenting with Arabic calligraphy to render part of the lyrics of an Egyptian song visually, and the second is a collaboration with a prominent Egyptian Street Artist exploring the power of individual change, or rather the power of one individual to create ripples of change that suppresses his/her limitations of expression, but it’s still too early to announce further details about this one.