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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.
As one of the rising and more modern galleries in Cairo, Ubuntu is currently hosting a colourful display of paintings and sculptures put together under the title, The Collectors Eye, featuring the work of over 30 contemporary artists, both foreign and Egyptian.
The first artist whose work captivated us was Egyptian born Mohamed Hassan with an exquisite oil painting on a 35cm x 50cm canvas. The painting depicts a middle-aged woman in a lacy, white dress and has which appears quite dated; the piece has a distinct 1900’s aesthetic – the subject’s hairstyle and even the composition mirrors elements of traditional early twentieth century portraits. Upon further inspection of the facial features, Hassan’s delicate brush strokes are barely visible creating an almost photographic effect, though the lace on the dress is a little more freely painted.
Burchard Simaika, on the other hand, offers us something completely different in the next room of the gallery, with a thickly painted, abstract scene using layer upon layer of paint. Due to oil’s long drying process it is clear that this painting took weeks, possibly months, to create considering the artist most likely needed to wait for the previous layer to dry. The sheer abstractness of the piece makes it difficult to decipher; what can be interpreted, though, is that the colour scheme uses earthy colours that allude to greenery, stone and shrubbery, entwined with several shades of blue implying water, possibly small lakes.
It’s not only paintings displayed in Ubuntu’s exhibition; there is also a generous selection of sculptures situated in each gallery space, with two particularly stunning pieces being by Amgad El Tohamy. One features an obscure figure, created using bronze; the subject seems to be sat cross-legged with the head and arms significantly small and slender in relation to the lower body which is chunky and large. The focus of this sculpture seems to be the challenging of our perception of human proportion as well as the notion of stretching and resting. When we stretch a part of the body it naturally appears thinner than when we are resting, in particular a sitting position; El Tohamy elaborates on this in a highly dramatic way creating an enticing sculpture. Another interesting aspect of the figure is that it takes form as an object or ornament for the home such as a vase or a lamp and further inspection is needed to even understand it is depicting a human being.
The second sculpture by El Tohamy is also created from bronze, though this one is of a human head; once again he challenges our natural perception and elaborates on a particular notion, one being the idea of a force against ones face, perhaps a wind blowing hard pushing the skin and hair tight; another could be to depict a material of some sort being pulled tight over the face, almost as if it is being suffocated. As with his first sculpture it could also resemble a household object from the abstract way in which it was created.
The Collectors Eye is another pleasing and well thought out exhibition from Ubuntu Gallery, displaying a delightful mixture of contemporary art to the public. Though there is no brochure or booklet, the gallery owner is always happy to assist with any queries about the collection.