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Zamalek Art Gallery: 'We The People' by Yasmine El Hazek
Aside from an overwhelming concrete aesthetic nature, cities and urban areas are equally defined by their extensive diversity of cultures. Although it may have its inconveniences, Cairo shines with an impressive variety of customs. It was these characteristics that inspired young artist Yasmine El Hazek's newest exhibition at Zamalek Art Gallery.
As part of her process, Hazek regularly allowed herself to roam free across parts of the city to absorb the many characters and subcultures within its borders. As a result, 'We the People' draws primarily on the faces observed on said streets. The works embody people from all walks of life; from the vendors, to brides and grooms, the farmer and the tannoura dancer – everyone's role is documented.
While Hazek has stated her style to be inspired by children's drawings, in many instances, her work possesses qualities from the Picasso school of approach, particularly in the shapes given to the faces of her subjects. She tends to favour bold colours whipped in crude brush strokes and oil pastel shadings against dark backdrops. Surprisingly, her paintings remain untitled, giving room for the contents to speak.
A signature trait of Hazeks' style is the frequent use of gold outlines; an element that increases the liveliness of the pieces – particularly around the eyes of her subjects. Furthermore, especially in her larger canvases, she has taken the liberty of doodling around the subjects, commonly using slogans or graphics reminiscent of political graffiti.
The most notable painting was that of a duf player donning a white galabeya, featuring heavy shades of black and red; perhaps an unintended or subtle hint at the Egyptian flag. Captured playing his instrument, the drummer's overall demeanour and facial expression – particularly in his layered eyes – maintain an element of sadness and agitation. Hazek's aforementioned use of gold outlining is particularly effective in this piece.
With her mixed medium pieces and use of varied subjects, Hazek manages to infuse the chaotic element of Cairo into her works, merging into an honest portrayal of the busy capital, and the regular and, maybe, instinctive inclusion of familiar cultural references, such as bearded holy men and a young man selling liquorice juice, ground the audience in grasscairo360users Egyptian customs and traditions.
With the playful and light hearted nature of 'We the People', Hazek has established herself as a skilful artist, worthy of having her work decorating homes and venues around Cairo.
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.