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Ubuntu Art Gallery: 'Gathering & Scattering' by Sahar Alamir
Despite being separated from Zamalek's cluster of galleries, Ubuntu Gallery is well worth the detour; its stylish grounds and generous spacing provides a pleasing exhibition where visitors can view art from another angle. 'Gathering And Scattering' is the title given to the latest exhibition at Ubuntu by Egyptian artist, Sahar Alamir.
Alamir is originally from Alexandria but now lives and works in Cairo; she studied Graphic Design at the faculty of Arts, graduating in 1993 and has since held many exhibitions.
The overall style of the work on show is quite abstract and expressive both at the same time; or what many call 'Abstract Expressionism', which originated in the Western art world in the 1940's and was developed by American painters such as Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko. One might describe the style as being quite childlike due to the haphazard layout, gestural brushstrokes and overall bold technique.
One particular piece within the exhibition portrays a dinner setting and demonstrates these qualities and attributes quite bluntly, as it isn't immediately clear what the image is until inspected more closely. Firstly, the perspective of the table and chairs is very simple and the food presented on the table is so abstract, merely large blobs and rapidly applied marks of colour, that we are unable to know what it is; it seems shape and colour are the important attributes in this painting along with the gestural technique that has likely to have been used.
We discovered that Alamir first applies the colours and spaces to the canvas and then highlights them with bold, exaggerated lines, usually black or dark brown. All the dinner settings featuring in these paintings are absent of people which is quite interesting, though we learn at this exhibition that the artist is interested in the bringing together of people at meal times and then their departures, which is further portrayed when we look at the title of the exhibition, Gathering and Scattering.
The paintings displayed are vast in size, colourful and, from afar, appear as patterns on a woven quilt; the overall exhibition is quite pleasant to walk around as everything is so bright and busy meaning that the viewers are encouraged to stop and observe each painting closely rather than just glance and walk on by.
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.