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Zamalek Art Gallery: Gamal Al Sagini Exhibition
Gamal Al Sagini was very nationalistic and incredibly passionate about his home country, Egypt – and its people. Having been born in 1917 and dying aged 60 in 1977, Sagini lived through, and was inspired by, many historical events. His sculptures are generally large and abstract, made out of bronze, portraying many messages in the intricate detailing.
In 1969, when Gamal Al Sagini felt he was not getting enough recognition for his work, he threw some of his work into the Nile as an act of rebellion, claiming that if people cared, they would stop him. This certainly got him noticed and we're glad not all of his work was swept away.
The events of the Suez crisis in 1956 are represented by a tall, thin sculpture titled 'Port Said', completed in 1957. The front of this sculpture is a tall man wearing a traditional, long galabeya brandishing a gun above his head to signify the brutality of the war. There are also a number of descending parachutes in the sky above him to represent those used by soldiers involved in the conflict. Using the entire 3D model as canvas in itself, Sagini used the rear side of the sculpture to further depict the Israeli attack on Egypt, with the Star of David prominent amongst other emotive illustrations. An eagle-headed man stands at the base of the statue, with his arms outstretched signifying the freedom and power of the Egyptian land.
Another significant sculpture was one dedicated to the internationally recognised Egyptian singer, Om Kalthoum. It's a beautiful and detailed statue that was obviously created with a lot of care. Her body is made up of chunky triangles etched with Aztec patterns, glinting with the shine from the bronze. Her importance and popularity was prominent throughout Sagini's life and we assume that this, and her meaningful music, led to the sculpting of her almost shrine-like piece. Although we didn't immediately recognise this piece as Om Kalthoum, once we did it made sense that, judging by Sagini's patriotism, he would admire such a strong and iconic woman.
There are also numerous other sculptures on show, with significant stories behind each one. For example, a sculpture of a mother and baby entwined symbolises the gift of motherhood and the importance of nurture. His piece named 'The Nile' personifies the river into a wise, old bearded man, giving it a mythical feel.
Because little information on his sculptures is offered at the exhibition, Sagini's work requires visitors to carry out their own research. We're glad we did as it helped to uncover an eye-opening, opinionated and interesting history, confirming that each piece was an important outlet of expression for Gamal El Sagini himself.
Over the years, Safar Khan Art Gallery in Zamalek has featured exhibitions by some of the top artists on the contemporary visual arts scene like Hussein Fawzy, Farouk Hosny and Ahmed Nawar to name a few. Art in Egypt as a community has become more and more inclusive, but the gallery has been able to guarantee a certain quality, and even prestige, of visual art thanks to their selections.
Abdel Salam Eid was born in 1943 in Alexandria and is a professor of Photography in the Fine Arts faculty at Alexandria University. While he has received several national and international accolades for his work in photography, this particular exhibition featured the use of many unusual mediums and materials – rope and plastic forks are two of the most peculiar.
The masterpiece of the exhibition is placed close to the entrance, to the right, and also serves as the subject of the exhibition’s promotional poster. Combining photography, mosaics, and 3D sculptures of birds in the centre, the piece captures the artist’s methodology quite aptly.
But Eid’s interesting approach doesn’t end with the unusual materials he employs, as he uses them in unusual ways, too. In another, much larger, piece, the mosaic element sees Eid use the tiles face down, revealing the rough, corrugated backside. The tiles were sliced to tiny pieces and then reassembled to form interlocking geometric patterns reminiscent of Islamic motifs. To contrast the ceramic mosaic tiles, he uses blue glass towards the top which makes the entire piece pop with colour.
One can’t help but be impressed by Eid’s vision in utilising simple, domestic materials available in our. The use of rope in particular demands a closer look; while it looks haphazard, closer inspection reveals well studied interlocking patterns. He achieves a strange harmony between different textures like pieces of cloth, wood and even metal parts to form a complete composition.
Aside from collages and different textures, the Ecoline paintings – similar to watercolours, but denser and closer to coloured ink with much more vibrant colours – also particularly eye-catching. The paintings reveal many forms of intersecting colours open to interpretation.
Whether you’re a fan of contemporary art with the patience to observe and find an explanation in a painting or not, Abdel Salah Eid’s unique approach has made for an endlessly fascinating collection.