The Architect and the Professor
Magd Messarra is a gifted artist and an architecture professor at the French University of Egypt. He obtained many local and international awards, such as the State Award for Art & Architecture as well as the golden medallion and Certificate of Recognition from the Engineer’s Syndicate as “Best Architect and Project for the Year 1990. Moreover, in 1994, he was awarded the Egyptian State Award for art and architecture. Massarra received a Certificate of Appreciation from the International Society of Architects for his lifelong achievements in 2020 and participated in the Cairo Art Gallery in January 2021. Since an early age, he developed a passion for painting which later triggered his talent in architectural design. Moved by the Spanish painter Joan Miró, Massarra’s works echo the artist’s delightful colours as well as his passion for showcasing nature’s beauty. Messarra graduated at the Faculty of Architectural Engineering at Cairo University. He holds a master’s degree in Town Planning and Urban Design from Sceczin University in Poland. We had an opportunity to talk with the artist about his art and what it means to him.
Did you study art as a profession, or are you rely solely on your natural talent?
Since my early childhood, I developed an absorbing passion to draw and paint as hobbies. I believe that, for me, art is something that runs in my genetic makeup as my father also loved drawing, and he was my true mentor. I later took up Architecture as a profession, for it is a blend of art and science. In fact, by definition, architecture is the “Mother of all Arts”.
What is the most important thing that you want to communicate through your paintings?
I believe that art in all its forms and colors is the most distinguished expression of human creativity, skill, and imagination, for it always reflects our humanity and unique individuality. It certainly is a talent that needs to be enhanced by regular practice to thrive and flourish.
Who are your biggest influences in the realm of painting? And why did you develop a special love of Joan Miro’s painting in particular?
I’ve been influenced by a wide range of artists throughout my entire life, but Joan Miró is probably the one I deem the most creative artist of all times. Joan Miró I Ferrà was a Spanish painter, sculptor, and ceramicist born in Barcelona. Miro decided to completely abandon the artistic tradition of imitating things in real life though imitation at the time was the norm. He resorted to total abstraction, which is clearly exhibited in his paintings. He decided to employ dazzling colours and shapes that inspire people to contemplate on what the artist intended to say. Miró explored abstracted, powerfully coloured surrealism to create a kind of a private dialogue between the spectator and the painting that differs from one person to another and a special bond between the painter and the viewer that is one of the strongest in the realm of art.
Was there a decisive moment when you decided to follow your path as an artist? Or did you know from the very beginning that art is your primary passion?
I have always been passionate about art since it runs in my family. I think that there is no specific moment that can motivate an artist. Art is an urge of expression and cannot be ignored. It has to be expressed to show the artist’s own individuality and creativity. Individuality is what makes artists have their own identity and personality. For example, an artist like Picasso had something that made him different from his ancestors.
Which painting do you consider the most successful piece of art you composed?
My paintings come in many styles, yet abstract art is my favourite of all arts. I see my abstract paintings as the closest ones to my heart. Surely, there are other paintings that are also beautiful and balanced.
Does art keep you isolated from your family?
Although painting is an individual activity, yet without the inspiration of others it cannot see light. My family is also so much into art: My son plays the guitar, my lovely daughter is a fashion designer and a very talented painter. My wife has a flawless eye for interior design and arts in general. Moreover, where I live, I tend to paint in the garden of my house, so I’m surrounded by my family.
If there was one thing you could change about the public mindset in Egypt, what would it be?
If there was one thing I could do to change in Egypt, it would, definitely, be about art. I want Egyptian people to change their mindsets about art and to start making place for it in their lives. Egyptian government should give more focus to art education in schools, including drawing and music from kindergarten to high school. It is needless to say that arts define societies, and that it has been proven that communities which practice art show a less alarming crime rate and realize more aspirations in life than societies that aren’t interested in art.
If you could be born in another period of history, when would it be?
I would like to live during the Pharaonic era. This is the most advanced and productive era of the Egyptian civilization to-date. Embattled against time, the pharaonic arts still stand as testaments to a great civilization and as celebrated icons of the world’s most visited wonders.
Your favourite place to spend your time in?
My favourite place is to sit at the beach and enjoy the sea.
Do you have a second hobby apart from painting?
Yes, I have a myriad of other hobbies, including listening to music, reading, doing sports. And, of course, my undying passion for architecture.
Do you listen to music while you are drawing? What’s your favourite type of music?
I usually prefer to listen to Classic music while painting or reading. Both Mozart and Beethoven are my two favourite musicians of all times. I also enjoy listening to Greek songs and music.
“Art is an urge of expression and cannot be ignored. It has to be expressed to show the artist’s own individuality and creativity.“