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Art Corner: 'Ta7ya Masr' Group Exhibition
When it comes to artistic variety, Zamalek's Art Corner never fails to deliver, particularly in its current group exhibition, Ta7ya Masr, which includes a large collection of paintings by some of Egypt's most talented artists, each showing a variety of techniques and ideas. While the exhibition has been held to commemorate the New Suez Canal, it doesn't exclusively feature elements of patriotism and explores much more.
Some people say that art should evoke some kind of feeling or emotion from the viewer, even if it a negative one. In the first collection of paintings by Mohamed Tamam, the process and technique are clear too see; thick layers of dark blues and vivid yellows are applied by a palette knife to create a heavy pasted effect. The subject is unclear, though the first piece shows a face with red eyes and open-mouth, below it a human body lying down and could perhaps represent a death; it appears figurative, scenic and expressive.
Our favourite of them all had to be the three gigantesque paintings by Fathi Ali whose focus is on the darker side of life; in his first painting, he portrays a group of people who appear to be Egyptian from their long gallabeyas and head scarves. Three of them have faces that portray a feeling of obscurity and confusion through the dripping marks and empty eyes, though the most disturbing part is the red face with the horns who clearly represents Satan and the presence of evil being among us.
In the next room there are two more paintings by Fathi Ali focusing also on a darker, but more topical, side of life – terrorism, particularly that of ISIS. The pieces show figures in the bright orange jumpsuits we have all come to despair at, with one showing not only the violence but also the sadness left behind as a distraught mother holds up a photograph of her son, alluding to the execution of 21 Egyptian Copts in Libya in February this year.
Testament to the sheer and boundless variety of work in the exhibition, one of the other collections that catch the eye are some cartoon strips and paintings looking at Egyptian heritage; one is a beautiful rural painting by Eman Hakim of an old lady in a scarf on a background of mixed countryside scenes. The colours are soft greens, blues and yellows creating a relaxed and positive scene.
Though the gallery space is quite small, Art Corner's latest exhibition manages to bring together a collection rich in variety, style, colours and subjects, despite its name.
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.