Sign in using your account with
Safar Khan: Gamal Meleka
Although it’s one of the smallest art gallery spaces in Cairo, Safarkhan in Zamalek never disappoints with its new and exciting art exhibitions. This month, the gallery is hosting the work of Gamal Meleka. Meleka was born in Egypt but has spent most of his adult life in Italy, where he is a well-known and established contemporary artist. After having various exhibitions throughout Europe, his work can now be admired in Egypt for the first time. His current exhibition ‘Metamorphosis’ is a crossing of phenomena connecting Italian and Egyptian culture, according to Meleka himself.
Around 25 pieces are on display at Safarkhan at the moment. Most of the paintings show scenes at the Giza plateau; the pyramids and especially the sphinx are recurring themes. Most pieces have only the basic colours of red, blue and yellow and are topped off with gold. The use of gold leaf is very distinctive in Meleka’s work; it gives a dynamic and glamorous element to the paintings. Most of the pieces are somewhat the same with the sphinx in the foreground and the pyramids behind it.
There are also paintings of people in front of the pyramids. The figures are drawn in silhouettes; so their features and facial expressions are indiscernible. Also, it’s unclear what purpose these figures serve in the paintings other than adding a human element. Some of the works carry individual figures; others display groups, including children and babies. In the paintings of people posing with the pyramids, the objects aren’t always displayed in the correct order. Sometimes you see a tiny pyramid popping up on the side and some of the pyramids are actually drawn over the figures.
This reviewer found the paintings of the Sphinx and Pyramids a little tacky; possibly because of the gold trim that is typical of souvenir prints sold at tourist spots. The connection between Italian and Egyptian culture addressed by Meleka wasn’t very clear to us. Instead; we found most pieces to be explicitly Egyptian. If you have change to spare, most of the displayed paintings are priced at around 30,000LE.
In this reviewer’s opinion, the best paintings are the ones of the figures and the pyramids. After months of being saturated with revolutionary art exhibitions and projects, we’re happy to see the return of classic art themes.
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.