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Darb 17 18: 'Maspero'
Maspero, Egypt’s state TV building is no stranger to ridicule; for generations, its giant plump cluster of offices has been associated with an ailing government that gambles on partial media.
During the eighteen days that toppled former president Mubarak, protesters criticized the notorious establishment, often right at its doorstep. And as the fight for free press continues across Egypt’s squares, artists featured at Darb 17 18’s recent exhibit pay tribute to the last 50 years of forceful, faulty state indoctrination.
The first piece, titled Man Made, explores the notion of one’s outlook being obscured by an external force. Moataz Nasr Eldin juxtaposes an image of a young man blinkered with an eye patch with an image of a horse looking straight and steady, with its blinker tied around his eyes. The message is clear; Egyptian state media, like a blinker, has long tightened our visions, ensuring that we do not see the other side of any story.
Engy Ali’s Sanzaru portrays the absence of state media from the childhood of many Egyptians.
'I don’t remember what was usually on Wednesday night, and I don’t remember who I watched Friday shows with,' she says about her digital collage that duplicates an image of three chimps that can’t hear, see or smell.
Set against an abstract geometric background, the stifling of one’s senses is both powerful and comic, perhaps due to the chronic ineptness embodied in Maspero’s catalogue of broadcasts.
On the adjacent wall stands Adham Bakry’s Blueprint, a stark, sky-high mural stencilling the TV headquarters next to what looks like a map of its interior, in way of inviting someone to hijack the building, put an end to its unearned grandiose status and lift the shadow that it casted on Egyptians for decades.
In a series of sketches drawn on cardboard, Ali Abdel Mohsen, who is also the curator of the show, toys with the common belief that Maspero has long been regarded as the government’s mouthpiece, depicting both its anchors and the subjects invited on air as large megaphones.
While Khaled Hafez’s love-hate relationship with state media, capsulated in a video installation, ends silently with him watching news on mute with his two children, May El Hossamy’s affair is one with a concrete end: a grave titled Maspero 1960-2011. For both artists, the lies propagated by the Egyptian media are falling on deaf ears, but the question is when the rest of Egyptians will catch up.
Born in 1967, Sabah Naim refined her craft in the College of Art Education in Cairo, where she earned her bachelor’s degree, masters and PhD. While she is considered a regular and prolific contributor, if you will, to fine arts in Egypt, she is also a professor at her college. ‘Sounds’ marks her first exhibition to be held at Safar Khan Gallery in Zamalek.
Aside from within Egypt, her work has been exhibited in both solo and group exhibitions around the world, in countries including Italy, Holland, Dubai and France. Furthermore, collections of her work are maintained at the Museum of Modern Egyptian Art, the Egyptian Ministry of Culture as well being owned by private collectors around the globe.
Stylistically, her work in ‘Sounds’ is created primarily using inks and pencils on paper. Notably, there is an extensive repetition of colours, shape and flowers; the main subjects of Naim’s pieces. She has achieved a level of intricacy by layering multiple drawings on the page, with astounding attention to detail.
Her use of colour is predominantly subtle, whilst bold tones such as blood red or dark blue are used on occasion; the majority of her palette is laden with calming greys, light blues and beiges.
In combination, the artistic choices that Naim has made exhume a sense of infinity, where all the elements of the pieces blend harmoniously. One could study her pieces for hours and find that there is always more to be seen, and more observations to be made.
Aside from images on canvas, ‘Sounds’ also includes a number of notebooks that have been decorated in the same style as her larger works.
Some may argue that ‘Sounds’ is too repetitive and lacking in drama, so to speak; however, there is an overwhelming sense of comfort achieved by her minimalistic, yet intricate pieces, capturing attention by their hypnotic properties.