Sign in using your account with
Zamalek Art Gallery: Salah Taher
If the artist is nicknamed ‘the yogi of Zamalek,’ you know you are onto something good. Zamalek Art Gallery is celebrating the centennial anniversary of prominent Egyptian painter Salah Taher.
Born in Cairo in 1911, this artist had an impressive career, first as the head of the Museum of Modern Arts, then as the head of the Khedival Opera, and finally in joining Al Ahram newspaper, where he worked as the newspaper's artistic consultant until his death in 2007.
In 2001, he was honoured alongside Nobel laureate Naguib Mahfouz at the soft opening of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, where a book on his work was published. Taher was also a teacher at the School of Fine Arts and an NGO was established in his name; the Society of the Lovers of Salah Taher. One of his most famous fans was former US president Richard Nixon, who bought one of his pieces. It still hangs on a wall at the White House till this day.
Zamalek Art Gallery currently has more than 130 pieces of Taher’s work on display. All of them, to say the least, are magnificent. Taher’s work is difficult to label. Some pieces could be put under the categories of expressionism and classicism, while other pieces are very abstract and surrealist. In the end, though; it is the epitome of Salah Taher’s distinctive style.
The collection at Zamalek Art Gallery is a combination of paintings and sketches. The paintings are very cheerful. A lot of colour is used, especially red and green; giving the paintings an eye-catching factor. There are pieces of the Egyptian countryside depicting daily life with peasants working on the fields and coastline pieces with boats floating on the water. The coastline paintings could be anywhere along the Mediterranean coast. The countryside pieces are timeless; some clearly depict the Egyptian countryside in the same way as we still know it today, while others could be of somewhere in Southern France.
A recurring factor in Taher’s work is women. What is especially striking is that they are either nude or veiled and nothing in between. The paintings are usually of women in groups, while his sketches focus mostly on individual women sitting or lying down.
Salah Taher’s work is for sale with sketches starting at 2400LE and paintings for up to 45,000LE. This is no surprise as Taher’s work is exquisite. From the biggest paintings to the smallest sketches, all his works are masterpieces. Even if you can’t afford to buy anything, you should definitely head over to the exhibition. This is Egyptian art at its finest by an extremely talented and respected artist.
While the late Inji Efflatoun has become known for her colourful paintings, Safar Khan Gallery’s current exhibition shines a light on Efflatoun’s ink-on-paper collection, ‘Freedom After Prison’. Utilising the chosen materials through different techniques, Efflatoun created a diverse collection of sketches, which depicts life in the Egyptian countryside.
In some of the paintings, Efflatoun used staccato pen strokes to form the scene. One of them is ‘Rest Time’, in which the artist drew the masses of resting workers, adding a touch of detail here and there to break the detachment of the outlines.
On the other hand, other paintings boast a flowing outline, especially the ones including palm trees and greenery. In one of the best pieces in the exhibition, Efflatoun not only studies the form of palm leaves, but she also adds a creative touch to this simple form, filling the thin outline of the element with waves of ink, using the wide tip of a black marker.
Merging between the previous two techniques, Efflatoun drew a number of scenes that portray the dwellings of the peasants. For example, in one of the paintings, the artist used a continuous outline to draw the houses, while pen strokes were used to form the shape of other details, like palm trees or straw ceilings. Where necessary, Efflatoun used the wide tip of the marker for creating shades.
Though the different shades of ink are dominant in this exhibition, the gallery shows four paintings in colour, three of which are by Efflatoun herself and the fourth is by the exhibition’s guest of honour, the late Taheya Halim.
While two of Efflatoun’s were placed in near the front desk, making it difficult for the viewer to have a close look at them under the stares of the curators, the third, which portrays the artist while working in a simple set of brush strokes, is placed amidst the other ink paintings. However, being the guest of honour, Halim’s Painting, which depicts a Nubian couple seated on a bench, is centred on the wall facing the entrance.
And whether in colours, or merely painting using ink, ‘Freedom After Prison’ is sheer proof of the artist’s brilliant ability to create animated paintings using different mediums.