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Zamalek Art Gallery: 'The Egypt I love ...Immortal' by Farghali Abdel Hafiz
Farghali Abdel Hafiz is an artist known for his representations of the world's great cities including Paris, London and Istanbul, and now his current exhibition focuses on the study of his homeland with 'The Egypt I love …Immortal'. Being held at Zamalek Art Gallery, the Egyptian born artist promises a celebration of Egypt as 'pure adoration to the timeless, eternal Egypt, which does not die.'
Hafiz's work searches for a unified Egyptian identity during these tumultuous times. In this collection, he aims to capture the personification of Egypt and to secure its place as Om El Donia – Mother of the world, cradle of civilization. To create this image, he draws upon a wide range of mediums and colour palettes that reflect the multi-faceted Egypt which has spanned civilisations. In a single piece, Hafiz places together a Pharaoh, a 50s celebrity and a mother figure, all of which combine to give an overview of his country and ultimately produce a strong, uplifting image.
The main subject in almost all of the pieces was a woman, or more often women, smiling knowingly at one another, while objects thate are representative of Egypt are cradled in their hands – a mosque, a bool or a relic of Downtown's architecture, for example. These characters give an impression of Egypt as a motherly sustainer which is withstanding. Meanwhile, hidden about the canvas, eagle-eyed viewers will notice small black and white photographs, seemingly newspaper clippings, which predominantly depict a male face. The contrast between these two mediums and the characters they display is very powerful, as in contrast to the giant bright smiling women, these photographs show an individual alone and contained, seemingly frozen in a time gone by. The suggestion here is that these cultural icons, as symbols of modernity, are quickly faded and relegated to a fixed time. In 'Egyptian Romance', one woman wears a string of these photographs as a necklace, suggesting that such images are fashionably attractive, but are only ever a token garnish on a timeless body.
The pieces are set apart from time, choosing not to focus on the chaotic Egypt of today, but instead presenting a montage of sand and river imagery which present an 'eternal Egypt' which refuses to be defined by the cityscapes it can be recognised for today. Situated in the center of Zamalek's buzz, Hafiz's collection provides a healthy reminder that Egypt goes further than Cairo's boundaries.
The mediums used in the collection make it a very rich visual experience as the artist works experimentally with a range of tactile materials, including clumped oil paint, paper and sand-based cement which forms a vivid reminder of Egypt's desert landscape. Water, specifically the Nile, is also an important motif in the collection, and through these elemental depictions of Egypt, the viewer is invited to see the bare bones of this country – as it has geographically stood for millennia, 'immortal'.
The exhibition presents a devotional collection of pieces which provokes a timely re-examination of the country's identity, particularly for those caught up in Egypt's newly born cityscapes.
While the late Inji Efflatoun has become known for her colourful paintings, Safar Khan Gallery’s current exhibition shines a light on Efflatoun’s ink-on-paper collection, ‘Freedom After Prison’. Utilising the chosen materials through different techniques, Efflatoun created a diverse collection of sketches, which depicts life in the Egyptian countryside.
In some of the paintings, Efflatoun used staccato pen strokes to form the scene. One of them is ‘Rest Time’, in which the artist drew the masses of resting workers, adding a touch of detail here and there to break the detachment of the outlines.
On the other hand, other paintings boast a flowing outline, especially the ones including palm trees and greenery. In one of the best pieces in the exhibition, Efflatoun not only studies the form of palm leaves, but she also adds a creative touch to this simple form, filling the thin outline of the element with waves of ink, using the wide tip of a black marker.
Merging between the previous two techniques, Efflatoun drew a number of scenes that portray the dwellings of the peasants. For example, in one of the paintings, the artist used a continuous outline to draw the houses, while pen strokes were used to form the shape of other details, like palm trees or straw ceilings. Where necessary, Efflatoun used the wide tip of the marker for creating shades.
Though the different shades of ink are dominant in this exhibition, the gallery shows four paintings in colour, three of which are by Efflatoun herself and the fourth is by the exhibition’s guest of honour, the late Taheya Halim.
While two of Efflatoun’s were placed in near the front desk, making it difficult for the viewer to have a close look at them under the stares of the curators, the third, which portrays the artist while working in a simple set of brush strokes, is placed amidst the other ink paintings. However, being the guest of honour, Halim’s Painting, which depicts a Nubian couple seated on a bench, is centred on the wall facing the entrance.
And whether in colours, or merely painting using ink, ‘Freedom After Prison’ is sheer proof of the artist’s brilliant ability to create animated paintings using different mediums.