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Picasso Gallery: 'Transformation' by Britt Boutros Ghali
Awarded the St. Olav’s Medal, Norwegian artist Britt Boutros Ghali is considered one of the most influential and important artists of her time. With an affiliation for abstract expressionism, her pieces are very much alive, bursting with colour and motion. Her ‘Transformations’ exhibition, showing in Picasso Gallery in Zamalek, is a further expression of potent colours, abstraction and absolute enchantment.
The large canvases, which appeared to be made of silk, almost bounced off the wall with colour. A considerably full collection, there are three easily distinguishable themes: the purely abstract pieces, the ones with a single large flower at their centre and a variety of female figures – though they were not arranged in this order.
The abstract paintings were the most absorbing, simply because they left the most to the imagination. A sublime mesh of colours layered with random strokes of paint create these little figures across the canvas, leaving you wondering if all those little characters were intended, or if the point is to make up your own. The contrast of the almost sinister looking scratches of people against the brightness, and lightness, of the powerful hues is addictive; you don’t want to look away.
Other abstract pieces depict elongated balady women peeking out from an indecipherable bundle of vibrant colours. A particular highlight featured a man, and he is the only one in the whole collection.
The boldly outlined flower sequence is reminiscent of the art deco period, where the solid, single colours end up looking like the glass pieces found in a classic Tiffany’s lamp from that time. The flowers were the fewest of the collection and luckily so since they were the least appealing.
The paintings focusing on the women are probably the most diverse. Towards the start of the collection, the women are wide-faced with large features and pouted lips. Some look European with light hair, others begin to look more Egyptian and African with darker skin and traditional clothes. Deeper into the exhibition there is even one that strongly resembles an Asian lady, with a powdered white face, full red lips and sharp black hair.
Within the theme of women there are a collection of full-bodied, round figures. There is something endearingly comforting about their given shapes; a piece with a somewhat obese lady is dreamlike and wispy, painted in mostly pink on a black background.
There is no doubt that, as a modest gallery in one of Zamalek’s inconspicuous side streets, Picasso Art Gallery has been given an abounding breath of life with Boutros Ghali’s refreshing exhibition. Extensive and remarkably rich in both colour and feeling, it’s definitely an exhibition worth visiting.
For the first time in the last twenty years, Evelyn Ashamallah unveils her long awaited collection - aptly named, '20 years of Evelyn Ashmallah' - in the beautifully secluded 6 Contemporary Art Space in Zamalek. Born in Dessouk in 1948, Evelyn has dedicated her life to the arts by holding many well respected positions and has won a number of prestigious awards for her paintings. For a short while, she was also the director of the Egyptian Modern and Contemporary Art Museum and even helped set up the Artists Syndicate in Egypt.
The gallery is a large, spacious, well-lit area with high ceilings and bare wooden floors, creating a formal and professional feel. Evelyn's work filled the walls and was made up of eyecatching pieces, often grouped together in series. Most of her pieces used bright, vibrant colours, depicting abstract scenes of mystical, dream-like creatures or jolly caricatures illustrating Egyptian life. In the same style, there were a number of pieces drawn using shades of black and white.
Unfortunately, there is little information regarding the pieces available at the exhibition; neither are the pieces titled, nor could the assistant help us with unravelling the meanings behind the majority of the paintings. However, Evelyn is said to reflect the far, funloving depths of the human imagination, attempting to merge the simplicity and innocence of her own childhood with the satire experienced in adulthood.
The piece we recieved most information about, characterised the ancient myths of the Egyptian worship of serpents for their strength and protective qualities. Using slightly duller colours than the other pieces, perhaps to signify a more serious message, the painting shows a serpent sitting on a stool, being crowned and worshipped by a naked charicature of a woman. The piece is less busy than the others and had we not been told, we couldn't have guessed the story behind the scene.
Other paintings were more self explanatory, for example, a portrait of a smiling couple inside a house, we can assume is taken directly from Evelyn's memory and are perhaps members of her own family. There is also a painting depicting well-dressed couples in the countryside, surrounded by water, greenery and a train passing in the background; which gave off vibes of a warm and happy memory. Another of her paintings titled 'Mouled' is a colourful, playful composition, appearing to be a traditional Egyptian family, complete with a man and two wives - and many other figures - adorned with jewellery and several evil eye symbols warning off jealousy.
Our favourite, and arguably the most eye-catching painting was comprised of ten small canvas' put together to make one giant piece, stretched across an entire wall. Bright reds, greens, blues and yellows are used to paint a make-believe scene involving a flying seal, a bird riding a floating bike and robots-come-aliens.
The pieces exhibited had a lot of depth to them, so were interesting to attempt to analyse, however, with little information about the artists motivations or inspirations, many of the pictures appeared similar to one another, and left us feeling confused rather than inspirited.