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6 Contemporary Arts: '20 Years of Evelyn Ashamallah' by Evelyn Ashamallah
For the first time in the last twenty years, Evelyn Ashamallah unveils her long awaited collection - aptly named, '20 years of Evelyn Ashmallah' - in the beautifully secluded 6 Contemporary Art Space in Zamalek. Born in Dessouk in 1948, Evelyn has dedicated her life to the arts by holding many well respected positions and has won a number of prestigious awards for her paintings. For a short while, she was also the director of the Egyptian Modern and Contemporary Art Museum and even helped set up the Artists Syndicate in Egypt.
The gallery is a large, spacious, well-lit area with high ceilings and bare wooden floors, creating a formal and professional feel. Evelyn's work filled the walls and was made up of eyecatching pieces, often grouped together in series. Most of her pieces used bright, vibrant colours, depicting abstract scenes of mystical, dream-like creatures or jolly caricatures illustrating Egyptian life. In the same style, there were a number of pieces drawn using shades of black and white.
Unfortunately, there is little information regarding the pieces available at the exhibition; neither are the pieces titled, nor could the assistant help us with unravelling the meanings behind the majority of the paintings. However, Evelyn is said to reflect the far, funloving depths of the human imagination, attempting to merge the simplicity and innocence of her own childhood with the satire experienced in adulthood.
The piece we recieved most information about, characterised the ancient myths of the Egyptian worship of serpents for their strength and protective qualities. Using slightly duller colours than the other pieces, perhaps to signify a more serious message, the painting shows a serpent sitting on a stool, being crowned and worshipped by a naked charicature of a woman. The piece is less busy than the others and had we not been told, we couldn't have guessed the story behind the scene.
Other paintings were more self explanatory, for example, a portrait of a smiling couple inside a house, we can assume is taken directly from Evelyn's memory and are perhaps members of her own family. There is also a painting depicting well-dressed couples in the countryside, surrounded by water, greenery and a train passing in the background; which gave off vibes of a warm and happy memory. Another of her paintings titled 'Mouled' is a colourful, playful composition, appearing to be a traditional Egyptian family, complete with a man and two wives - and many other figures - adorned with jewellery and several evil eye symbols warning off jealousy.
Our favourite, and arguably the most eye-catching painting was comprised of ten small canvas' put together to make one giant piece, stretched across an entire wall. Bright reds, greens, blues and yellows are used to paint a make-believe scene involving a flying seal, a bird riding a floating bike and robots-come-aliens.
The pieces exhibited had a lot of depth to them, so were interesting to attempt to analyse, however, with little information about the artists motivations or inspirations, many of the pictures appeared similar to one another, and left us feeling confused rather than inspirited.
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.