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Zamalek Art Gallery: Zeinab El Sageny Exhibition
Zamalek Art Gallery never fails to deliver when it comes to interesting new art exhibitions. The gallery is always up-to-date and showcases the work of famous artists and new talents alike. This December, the paintings of the renowned artist Zeinab Al Sageny are being exhibited in the gallery. The exhibition was supposed to be held almost a year ago but due to the events that unfolded in Egypt, it was postponed based on the artist’s wishes.
Al Sageny’s work usually consists of colourful oil and charcoal paintings of women. The most striking elements of Al Sageny’s work are the women’s large eyes and striking features. A recurring theme in Al Sageny’s work is the bond between mother and daughter. Many of her paintings show mother and daughter holding each other. Most of the women in the paintings are in groups or at least with another person, while a few portraits focus on individual women. Al Sageny’s work looks very bright and joyful, often portraying scenes of young girls playing together or with their toys.
A closer inspection of the paintings will show you the artist’s keen attention to detail, such as the subtle texture of the women’s hair.
A few paintings include animals, such as the recurring depiction of a white dove placed in children’s hands as a symbol of peace. A few artworks carry a small kitten popping up from underneath a table or sleeping at the feet of the women. In another painting, two girls ride a buffalo through the shade of palm trees. The use of the colour gold gives a very special dimension to this piece.
In this reviewer’s opinion, the best piece in the collection is that of a woman representing Egypt. The woman in the painting wears a white dress and has a sad look in her eyes. Around her neck is a necklace with a cross while her head is framed by a crescent like a crown. Aside from this painting, the Egyptian theme appears in other paintings too. We see a girl playing with a red, white and black doll for instance. Another highlight is a painting where several women and girls are seated at a round table. Their faces are so similar, it’s almost like the same woman depicted in different angles and ages, all with the same stunning eyes.
Al Sageny’s exhibition is absolutely worth a visit. At 81-years old, she continues to produce paintings that are extraordinarily rich with childlike innocence and a sense of nostalgia.
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.