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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.
Now showing at Zamalek Art Gallery’s Venue II, ‘Passion Offerings’ displays a culturally rich series of paintings by Egyptian Artist, Adel Tharwat. Born in Cairo in 1966, Tharwat holds a PhD in Art education from Helwan University, where he later went on to become a professor.
Tharwat’s approach in ‘Passion Offerings’ delves into both shared and personal self-assessment when it comes to cultural identity and explores cultural heritage, with the aesthetic of Pharonic imagery, with African and more contemporary touches. The paintings themselves are enormous in size reaching a staggering 135 X 135cm, creating an effect of power and gravity, and each one features several figures grouped together and engaged in some sort of manual labour whilst others, the female figures, are displayed as symbols of vanity, love and the softer nature of humans.
The style of the painted figures lack detail and so the individual role of each character is not important; the faces are merely just brown colour as are the bodies dressed in simple clothing: the males with simple cloth around them and the women in dresses. Sharp lines and exaggerated curves are used to form the figures in likeness to the Pharonic wall carvings from centuries ago as are the meanings they give. Tharwat’s paintings read like a story – a story of traditional Egyptian cultural heritage filled with symbols, bold colours and each with the traditional essence of Egypt. His paintings are filled with marks and patterns that may resemble the weaving of tapestries.
Another point that is apparent in several of these large paintings is that there are some areas painted in gold, which not only captures the light in a way that even the bolder colours used cannot, but also a certain beauty that fittingly represents wealth and sacredness.
In the brochure which is available at the exhibition, Adel Tharwat quotes: “I am an Egyptian” and his paintings convey this message with a thoughtfulness and subtle passion in beautifully artistic fashion.
Egypt has a rich culture and a vast artistic history, so exhibitions like this have an important presence in the what is quickly becoming a more eclectic local art scene and Adel Tharwat’s latest collection aid in preserving a piece of it.