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Al Masar Gallery: 'Nostalgic Dreams' by Georges Bahgory
Born in Cairo in 1932, Georges Bahgory has, for a long time, stood as one of Egypt's most significant artists during his time. Based in Paris since 1970, Bahgory continues to spend several months a year in Cairo, where he draws inspiration for his witty political caricatures along with paintings, drawings, pencil sketches and sculptures.
As the title of his latest exhibition 'Nostalgic Dreams' suggests, the collection shown at Zamalek's Al Masar Gallery is inspired by Bahgory's memories of days gone past. Not drifting far from his usual motifs, the works feature many individuals seen on the streets of Cairo such as a bread seller, or a coffee shop patron.
There are numerous pieces that feature musicians, such as 'Serenade', 'Chanting' and 'Oriental Quartet'. In these paintings, he has placed specific attention on bringing the musical instruments to the limelight. In addition, there are yet more paintings depicting Oum Kalthoum, whom he is known to be rather fond of.
Evidently, the years have given Bahgory refinement, vision and mastery of colour. From the outset, the canvases feature bold, violent paint strokes, but on closer inspection, there is delicacy beyond; he takes the time to smudge and blend his paint so intricately that the details remain subtle whilst managing to fill the pieces with motion.
'Nostalgic Dreams' sees copious use of traditional khayameyah fabric. 'Dervish Dancer', for instance, is almost completely composed of the fabric, whilst 'My Reincarnation' features a blue woodpecker, coloured by the khayameyah print, perched on Baghory's head. The traditional print has a profound presence in the paintings and is heavily reminiscent of Egypt, bringing an air of homesickness to Bahgory's work.
As previously mentioned, Baghory's sense of humour has him casually depict himself in many of his paintings. Whilst he tends to draw his facial structure and hair with an impressive degree of accuracy, he chooses to exclude his eyes. In 'Me, My Friend & the Monalisa', the viewer sees Bahgory alongside a similar looking man to his left while a figure – hinting at the Mona Lisa – is casually included in the bottom right corner of the painting. Aesthetically pleasing and quirky, this painting left us curious as to what inspired it.
As a very vivid and colourful collection, 'Nostalgic Dreams' is another example of the immense talent and timeless nature of Georges Bahgory's work; but beyond his technique, it's the exhibition's quirky nature and depth that truly shine.
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.