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Zamalek Art Gallery: Helwa Ya Baladi Exhibition
Zamalek Art Gallery is home to some of the most exquisite contemporary work by some of Egypt's most prominent Artists with monthly exhibits throughout the year as well as several permanent collections.
On our way in to attend the opening night, we found the entrance lit up with large, scented candles leading up the stairwell to mark the grand occasion and the space itself flooded with keen, art-thirsty onlookers. To add to the formal panorama there was a delicate tray of bite-size salmon, cheese and cucumber sandwiches being served along with sweet beverages in elegant wine glasses.
The astounding Rabab Nemr was born in 1938 in Alexandria. She graduated from the faculty of Fine Arts in 1963 and later went on to earn her PhD from the University of Madrid. After completing a rich education in the Arts, Nemr participated in various worldwide exhibitions both group and solo, including: the Tito Museum in Yugoslavia, the Egyptian Cultural Centre in Paris and the Museum of Modern Art in Jordan.
'Helwa Ya Baladi' which translates to My Beautiful Country, is a colourful exhibition where the human dimension is a key feature within each piece displayed, along with other recurring elements such as fishermen and their boats; sea creatures and birds. These elements are possibly a representation of the artists' own upbringing as she lived close to the sea as a child surrounded by these things which clearly spurred her on as an Artist.
The overall settings are rich, sunny and vibrant yet the figures that are the centrepiece of each scene remain without clear or obvious expression, in fact, most of the time it's not clear if they are males or females. The sharp edges of the elements reveal a touch of cubism, while the lack of detail in these abstract constructions creates a child-like, cartoon effect. The men's faces appear to be built from rocks, roughly calved to show large beefy characters especially in the more political pieces which express the idea of politics and seriousness all the more.
One particular piece which stands large and proud (120x200cm) shows a cluster of large, beefy men and women holding Egyptian flags and is believed to be a representation of the crowds standing united in the main squares during the events of January 25th. The piece lacks colour except for the powerful red from the Egyptian flag which draws more attention on the still gaze of each figure within the piece.
Rabab Nemr uses coloured inks on paper though this is not apparent until a closer inspection is taken, only then is it possible to see the thousands of delicate lines and marks that makes up her images that are produced on such a grand scale. Her style and technique demands much in terms of time and effort yet this only further illustrates the artists' strong, unwavering passion of her subjects and of art itself.
Rabab Nemr is a phenomenal artist who contributes excessively to the contemporary art of Egypt. Over the years she has obtained several prizes for her talent in drawing, along with the Jury Prize in the 8th Cairo International Biennale and in 2007 Nemr was awarded 1st Prize at the Alexandria International Biennale. 'Helwa Ya Baladi' is a phenomenal exhibition which proudly represents the artistic talent in Egypt.
Gypsum Gallery is currently displaying its first ever group exhibition in co-operation with Nile Sunset Annex to mark the end of the season. What Are You Doing, Object? is the bizarre and controversial title that has been given to this showing and immediately implies a sense of confusion.
A series of sculptures and installations make up the open space where visitors can walk around to inspect the art at every angle. The first piece to greet our eyes was by Hassan Khan, titled Double Mirror, which featured a large wooden frame of some sort; a mirror on a brass stand and a miniscule head made from mud and straw. Usually when a mirror is present it signifies that the artist wants the viewer to be part of the artwork itself though seeing all of these objects together evokes many questions and screams doubt and confusion. What is the purpose? What is the meaning?
Upon further research it seems that this doubt and confusion is actually the entire purpose of the exhibition. When we see a table our eyes immediately send a message to our brain outlining the purpose of a table and stating the obvious fact that it is indeed a table, the same with a chair; a fridge, a shoe, or any known object. Yet what happens when we are met with an unfamiliar object? Our mind will work and work to try and solve the mystery. It seems that it is a code to be cracked and a puzzle to be solved… or perhaps it is simply art. Art does not require a purpose to exist nor does it need a name, but nevertheless it is there.
Ironically further into the exhibition there is a piece titled ‘Navigation’, by Sarah Samy; a kappa foam cut-out situated on the floor and resembles a jigsaw puzzle yet it is an incomplete puzzle without an answer.
Another interesting aspect about What Are You Doing, Object? is that all of the materials used to create each piece are those familiar to us: wood, brass, mud, plastic, foam and fiberglass; this gives us a tiny piece of information to work with, though much like the jigsaw puzzle by Sarah Ramy, the rest of the information is missing. What Are You Doing, Object? is an aesthetically pleasing collection first and foremost, but the beauty of it is that each piece in its autonomous state could mean absolutely anything, or nothing it all.