Hazem Elsheltawi is an Egyptian born artist and designer with more than 30 years of international experience across a wide variety of design and art disciplines. His specialty lies in creating three-dimensional ‘fibre paintings’, a world-first technique curated by Hazem himself. The breakthrough artistic medium creates paintings so delicate and richly detailed they appear as photographs to the naked eye, and have helped cement Hazem’s place as a renowned artist.
Over the course of his career Hazem has been commissioned to create concept artworks for a range of big-name companies including Qantas and the Victoria Racing Club, and design ideas for Australian fashion label CUGGI. In addition, he has produced his signature fibre paintings for the likes of former Australian Treasurer Peter Costello and US talk show royalty Oprah Winfrey.
After his parents’ health took a turn for the worst, Hazem moved home to the Sunshine Coast to care for them and decided to take up some study, with TAFE Queensland’s tremendous teaching staff being his major draw card.
“I actually started a Bachelor of Design course at a local university first, but wasn’t happy with the teaching staff coordinating the course,” Hazem said.
“I walked straight out of the university, jumped in my car, and drove to TAFE Queensland where I’d heard of two fantastic teachers coordinating the Diploma of Graphic Design there - Gary Chapman and Lyndal Chase.”
Fast-tracking his studies through recognition of his prior learnings (RPL), Hazem now has four diplomas achieved through TAFE Queensland, including an Advanced Diploma of Visual Arts which he achieved completely through RPL.
According to Hazem, the standard of teaching at TAFE Queensland is in a league of its own, and the genuine interest and support offered to students is unlike that he’s seen anywhere before.
“Gary and Lyndal have a fantastic reputation in the Sunshine Coast and more broadly, with many industry professionals coming to their students’ end-of-year exhibitions looking to hire directly from them, knowing the standard of work will be high,” Hazem said.
“Students walk into their classes knowing nothing of graphic design, and walk out at a professional level just one year later. Gary and Lyndal really are special; they look after people and genuinely care so much. I couldn’t have asked for a better blessing,” he said.
Since completing his Diploma of Graphic Design, Hazem put his patented fibre painting ventures aside to create a unique commission project for the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games (GC2018).
Responding to a design concept brief from Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games Corporation (GOLDOC), Hazem has designed 70 individual furniture pieces for the GC2018 village, featuring unique representations of each of the 70 countries taking part in the games.
Creating a design prototype in just 24 hours, Hazem admits he definitely impressed the TAFE Queensland and GC2018 panel when presenting his initial concept.
“I knew the only way I would win the project after taking up the brief late was to leave a lasting impression in the meeting, so I bought the cube to life in front of them,” Hazem said.
“They immediately started making calls, asking me how many more I could make. So then I had 10 days to make up 10 more before another management meeting.
“Since then I’ve even been approached by Parliament wanting to know more about the project, which is quite exciting,” he said.
Over seven weeks, with often just three hours sleep most nights, Hazem researched each individual country’s unique attributes to include in the cube unit pieces, even contacting heads of embassies for those not highly represented on the internet in a conscious effort to create artwork that was a true depiction of each country.
“I focused mostly on natural animals and wildlife, as well as key figures in the country’s history, but my saving grace was definitely stamps,” Hazem said.
“There is nothing offensive about stamps, and they have no royalties to be reused!”
As part of his design vision, Hazem also included traditional aboriginal artwork on the base of every cube as symbolic representation of respect.
“While all of these countries come here for the games, it is our traditional land owners that support everything, and it was really important to me that I acknowledge this through the artworks,” he said.
Above everything else, Hazem wants his experience working with the Commonwealth Games to be an example of what can be achieved with a TAFE Queensland education.
“These kids are straight out of high school, and they need inspiration, so I’ve been putting this project together in front of current TAFE Queensland students to show them how a project like this progresses in reality, and the process I undertake to create the artwork,” Hazem said.
“Allowing them to be a part of this is the most rewarding thing.
“I’m also doing this project to thank Gary and Lyndal for all their efforts over their many years teaching, and give them the recognition they deserve in their field,” he said.
With an end goal of putting TAFE Queensland’s Nambour campus on the map for their fantastic graphic design program, Hazem says being able to contribute to such an internationally significant cultural event with an artistic design project is simply a bonus.
“It’s been a hectic few months but I’m really hoping to make sure I can get all 70 cubes finished ahead of time so I can get a photo with all the students sitting on them before they graduate. That is the moment I am most looking forward to,” he said.