What do an apple, a loaf of bread, and a bullet have in common? Mohamed Riad Saied: one of Egypt’s most distinguished late artists and certainly, Egypt’s surrealist painter by excellence during the second half of the twentieth century.
Highly imaginative and classically inspired, Mohamed Saied Riad (1937 – 2008) is best known for striking and bizarre juxtapositions of images, mixing Egypt with the rest of the world; and the past with the present. With a Ph.D. in art restoration, Saied produced distinct paintings embracing Renaissance and Baroque art qualities that depict fragments of our subconscious and the relationship between the real and the unreal to create a sense of phantom reality. The effect is raw and blunt Surrealism reflecting the human condition tormenting.
His version of Egyptian surrealism is a contextualized authentic voice, not merely imitative of Salvador Dali or René Magritte, though the influence is recognizable; and offers its own chapter in the grand global story of Surrealism. Riad Saied did not shy away from the boldness of the expression or the strangeness and even oddness of the visuals, particularly when the Egyptian environment was prone to other, more classic art movements, such as calligraphy and a return to figurative neo-Pharaonic styles. His artworks are the full, unashamed, and unrelenting expression of our humanity, with empty arcades, elongated shadows, mannequins, and animals, among others, that he arranged to convey a feeling of freedom paradoxically.
Riad Saied graduated with a bachelor’s degree with honors from the Faculty of Fine Arts in Cairo in 1964. In 1976, he obtained his doctorate in Art from the Royal Academy of San Fernando for Fine Arts in Madrid, Spain. Keen to expand his skills, he earned three other diplomas in Painting Restoration, Wall Painting, and Graphics, all from the same academy in Madrid. After returning to Cairo in 1977 until 1988, Saied was a professor of Oil Painting and Restoration at the Faculty of Fine Arts, Helwan University in Cairo. He then traveled to Kuwait, where he taught at the Faculty of Education until he returned to his homeland in 2005 to focus on his paintings and research.
In his honor, his son Karim has teamed up with the ARAC Foundation to launch the first annual Riad Saied Awards for Art and Creativity in support of young promising Egyptian surrealist artists. In 2011, the first Riad Saied Awards for Art and Creativity was awarded to Alaa Atef (MA in Painting, Alexandria, 2018). Symbolically a “Golden Apple,” the first prize consists of a three-month full sponsorship of the winning artist, including studio expenses, drawing material, and an exhibition.