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Zamalek Art Gallery: 'Drawing' by Mostafa Abdel Moity
Egyptian artist Mostafa Abdel Moity considers his work to be contemporary. As one of the founders of the Experimental Group, Moity strongly holds onto the concept of ibda’a, which advocates creativity away from replication of the past. Essentially a collection of sketches, his latest exhibition in Zamalek Art Gallery is simply titled ‘Drawing’.
Influenced by the Pharaohs and finding his inspiration in their social and aesthetic beliefs, the current exhibition has some significant Ancient Egyptian motifs - the most obvious one being the pyramid. Sketched solely in pencil, ‘Drawing’ is filled with geometric shapes and their angled points. There is a lot of balancing to be seen among the different forms. Made up of precise pencil scratches, the shapes all at some point or another, in some way or another, balance on each other. In some pieces the tiniest pyramid can be seen holding up a whole ensemble of larger shapes.
Since there are no colours incorporated, the shading of the work is quite incredible; the effect is sometimes luminous and sometimes organic, where the forms begin to resemble human parts. The white portions of the sketches become significant shapes within themselves. Although the pieces are made up of simple black and white, the texture and depth of the pencilling offer so much more than what is considered monochrome; it’s the world inside of monochrome that is somehow full of colour.
A recurring form in the sketches is what looks very much like a ram’s horn. The spiralled shape can be found in most of the sketches; it stands atop a peak or is embedded at the heart of another shape. Its significance is not clear, but the zodiac element is undeniable.
Abdel Moity’s whole approach to art works on the belief that an artist should create something new, driven by the past but not copying it. And for these reasons it is quite difficult to describe what ‘Drawing’ resembles or represents. The collection feels like a cross between film-noire, Cubism and old Hitchcock film posters. They’re eerie and looming, like a lighthouse stuck in the middle of a stormy night.
The journey of walking through the gallery is subtle, no single piece draws you in and nothing stands out on its own. But rather, the collection as whole is what draws you in. It’s as though you walk into a certain mood, as opposed to considering each item individually. It’s the type of exhibition that leaves you feeling something, though you’re not quite sure what it is. But when it comes to art: feeling something, anything, is always good.
There is a ‘sublime hysteria’ to everyday life, as the curators of 'Desire, Deceit & Difficult Deliveries' by Doa Aly say. Showing in Townhouse Gallery, the exhibition only seems to create a void in which this can easily be forgotten. In a contrived effort to illustrate the obsessive, yearning quality of daily life, through a crowded confused amalgamation of themes – ranging from Greek mythology to medical science – Aly fails in making her art what all good art should be: representational of its themes.
The collection comes across as a poorly reworked variation on an old theme, which has been done better elsewhere. The ideas are strong, however, the aesthetics, feeling, and heart required to convey such a principle concept are lacking. Overall, this exhibition is disconnected, hollow, and was ultimately a frustrating experience.
The first part of the show highlights four videos meant to tell something of the stories of the Ovid; it would take a great philosopher and historian to see this connection. But then again, maybe this is not necessary. The viewer is confronted with four videos, each in four parts, showing unidentifiable characters engaging in mechanical repetitious motions. It would seem as though the obsessive, repetitious movement of the characters on screen is meant to reflect our own schizophrenic nature, however, the rarefied atmosphere of the gallery and the removed characters, background and motions, make these pieces entirely un-relatable. In an attempt to create perhaps a universal atmosphere, Aly has created an irrelevant display that’s devoid of human feeling.
This absence of feeling continues on the first floor where an impressive text collage connects the poems of the Ovid with medical texts. Standing alone, this piece would have great strength, but as a bridge between two parts of the exhibition, we can see the artist attempting to create a narrative by force. That said, the first floor does feature some amazing drawings showcasing the artist’s talent as well as grasp of the themes presented.
The piece entitled ‘Roy’ offers a splendid conclusion to the exhibition. In this tragic piece we can see what this exhibition could have been. This piece shows a regular, relatable character and rather than underlying the fundamental themes of the exhibition and injecting it with human feeling, this very separate piece serves as a reminder of all that is missing in the rest of this show.
We found this show to be a somewhat removed handling of human feeling and lacking in terms of expressive and honest art, which could have better occupied this space.