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Safar Khan Art Gallery: Summer Collection 2015
Dating back to 1968, Safar Khan is often forgotten when speaking about Zamalek's many galleries, but the refined and cosy, two-floor venue has a knack for putting together some truly marvellous exhibitions – the latest of which is the galleries annual summer collection.
The collection features paintings both large and small, as well as some fascinating mixed-media creations. One of the first pieces you see upon entering, Mohamed Ismail's Metamorphosis, is a large painting in mostly black and white with a small area of deep red in the top left-hand corner. Created using oil paint on wood, large, bold marks stretch across the crisp white surface and it is clear to imagine the powerful movements used when applying them; a style today known as action painting or abstract expressionism. Though at first the painting appears too abstract to discover its true meaning, the closer we inspect the black marks, lines and shapes, we can see they are actually quite figurative. The colours black and red mixed with the strong, harsh movements used to create the piece indicate something strong and aggressive within the painting, perhaps between the people entwined within them, or people in general and if we go back to its given title it could even imply the metamorphosis of the people in society.
Another quite exquisite painting on the far wall by Kareem Abdel Malak appears to be a highly religious and powerful piece for the scene looks to be inside of a church of some sort which is further emphasised by the two large hands positioned as though they have floated down from the sky ready to communicate a message to the people. The title is Under the Same Sky which could suggest a bringing together of people and the idea of peace on Earth for we are all sharing the same ocean, land and 'sky'. Most of the colours are monotonous which suggests the scene is quite dated yet the image itself is vivid and filled with intense detail. An interesting aspect of this painting is that the wood in which it is painted upon is divided into two, yet placed beside each other to create one full image; the two hands are also divided onto the two pieces of wood.
The collection of artists who have their work displayed within Safar Khan, are all talented, well-educated in the field of art and successful in decorating the walls of the gallery space creating a rich, artistic environment. Some are simple line drawings capturing brief moments of stillness and beauty; others are more detailed paintings both figurative and landscape each portraying an element of the artists' souls. One delicately painted scene shows the interior of a large, ancient building, possibly a palace, with men inside wearing the traditional tarboosh and women with long flowing robes suggesting, along with the palm trees, that it is located in Egypt.
On the upper floor there are several unusual pieces featuring 3D objects collaged onto wood or canvas and even rope and softer materials which are fixated to create a 2D affect from afar.
On the whole, Safar Khan's summer exhibition offers an exquisite collection of contemporary art available for viewing of the public in order to educate, enlighten and entertain, but even more so, to appreciate.
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.