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Downtown, Cairo, Egypt.
Townhouse Gallery of Contemporary Art: Bidoun Library
On October 12th, 2010 Townhouse Gallery launched its first exhibition following its summer hiatus, and we couldn't be more excited! As Townhouse is one of the leading independent art spaces in Cairo, the exhibits never fail to impress, immerse and inspire those that have the opportunity to get involved. This latest project is no exception. The visiting exhibition Bidoun Library is held on the first floor of the Townhouse building; so head down to Nabrawy Street; the gallery is located up the stairs and to the left.
The Bidoun Library has been archiving and teaming with collaborators since its first installation in Abu Dhabi three years ago. It is an offshoot project of the leading arts and culture publication of the Middle East, Bidoun Magazine. If you're not familiar with Bidoun Magazine; now is your time!
Since 2008, the Bidoun Library has partnered with art collectives worldwide, including a Lebanese comic’s journal and its latest stop in New York City. Unlike any other exhibition in recent months or even years; the exhibition’s simple focal point is paired with a rich history and philosophical questioning focused on the book as an object of expression.
As many of us know, the value of the written word has become increasingly reduced in recent times. Focusing on the 20th century, the library explores that period when written word, including the book, newspaper and periodical magazine, was in its most tangible form of circulation. The exhibit's collection of written word draws from printed matter from around and within the Middle East, including exhibition catalogues, artists' books and other printed materials. Viewing the book as a means of material production, the concept stems from some of the very first publishing projects that took place during the Cold War; where the written word meets image.
The Bidoun Library covers the entire first floor, including the front room that is lined with the autumn 2010 issue of the Bidoun Magazine titled 'Library.' This issue displays a catalogue depicting the latest Bidoun exhibition held in the USA.
Attached to each issue's cover are one-of-a-kind photographs accumulated by local collector Amgad Naguib. Four different hardback books are suspended from the ceiling by silver chains in the middle of the room, representing varying portrayals of how the Middle East has come to be defined through literature.
In the two middle rooms, shelves are stacked with rows of books, providing the viewer with both a live art experience and a true understanding of the exhibit as it plays out in individual viewers’ actions: books are thumbed through and read out loud by visitors. It compels you to explore and research the materials at hand, most of which are rarely available for commercial sale.
The majority of material located in the room to the right offers a great selection by and for artists, including a copy of the inspiring Art is for the People. Take a seat at one of the long tables and read as long as your heart desires. Lastly, check out the video installation in the back, which conjures up more speculation through the use of musical media.
The Bidoun Library is a collection of books based on a clear vision. While the library itself is an organised institution that collects the written word for archiving and experiencing the depths that these printed materials came from, the exhibit portrays how they are used and understood today.
Showing until November 17th, the exhibition’s hours are Saturday to Wednesday from 10AM to 2PM and 6PM to 9PM, and Fridays from 6PM to 9PM.
Ubuntu Gallery’s latest exhibition comes in the form of Tawaseen; a vast and beautifully composed exhibition showcasing Egyptian artist Moham Oraby’s combined elements of both traditional and modern art.
Tawaseen has two translations in the Arabic language; one of them being ‘goblets’ or ‘bowls’, while the exhibition itself also proposes another rough translation or adaptation: ‘windows of eternity.’ Looking at the pieces on display, the first meaning of the word Tawaseen is manifested in the bowls of fruit and cups portrayed in vivid colours and the other meaning can actually be a metaphor for how art itself can be perceived as a window of eternity.
Born in in Sohag in 1961, Oraby studied painting in the Faculty of Arts in Luxor in 1984, before earning a Masters in photography at the Faculty of Fines Arts at Cairo’s Helwan University. Oraby has participated in many international exhibitions including Washington DC, Damascus in Syria as well as several exhibitions in Egypt.
One of the pieces which stood out is an oil painting depicting a table filled with bowls, eggs and fruits cut into pieces; it’s a cosy, colourful scene with the objects in the piece entwined within a pastel-green, patterned background featuring leaves and even a lizard. It’s a piece that encapsulates and highlights the emphasis the nature; one of the most beautiful sides of Oraby’s work.
Another painting depicts figures placed within similar settings; a lady in a bright red dress stands in front of a sand-coloured scene. Perhaps using elements of nature seems to be a common denominator in many of Oraby’s pieces as fruit pieces appear in several paintings as well as several green plants and leaves.
The background shades of Oraby’s paintings are quite similar in the sense that he uses mainly pastel shades which work nicely with the foreground colours which are much more intense and vivid.
Oil paint seems to be the preferred material for Oraby, which works well creating a furnished surface that reflects the lighting of the gallery space; it’s almost as if the fruit bowls and goblets are glistening beneath the beams.
If you have ever seen and favoured the delicate creations of British illustrator Beatrix Potter and the languid tones she uses to portray her outdoor, garden scenes, then you’re bound to appreciate this exhibition; the entire collection seems to generate a positive outdoor aesthetic as well as a relaxed and pleasant ambiance. The soft green shades all collaborate well with the more vivid yellows, oranges and reds which have been delicately applied onto a hard surface. It is said that Oraby likes to paint scenes that possess energy about them, which he can further emphasise through his own artistic style and choices.