Al Kahila Gallery: ‘From Memories of a Folk District’ by Adel Tharwat
Al Kahila Art Gallery can be found in a shaded alley overhung with trees amid the cafés and shops at the centre of Mohandiseen. This secluded spot is the perfect place for Adel Tharwat’s new exhibition, as the works included are a calm meditation on the past, salvaging images of a bygone age through memory. In his collection, ‘From the Memories of a Folk District’, the Cairene artist and professor at Helwan University presents the past as through a foggy cloud of memory, which has left a simplified imprinted mark.
Much of the collection appears to be done by a print press, as indicated by the thick straight lines and bold shapes in the artwork. The simplicity of the main elements in the pieces work in sharp contrast to the intricate detailing in what can, at first, appear to be a bleak backdrop. The artworks are earthy in colour, often in shades of grey, brown and murky red. However, amidst this, bright gold and royal blue shine brilliantly, giving an alternative dimension to the pieces – which is only visible upon close observation.
Also particularly striking is Tharwat’s use of white in his artwork which, far from being a clean and vivid colour, works as a foggy mystifying device when applied over the intricate dark background, causing certain elements to appear erased or edited. The strips of white criss-cross over the dark background give the artworks a hazy edge, suggesting memory’s fallibility and the corrosive force of time upon it. These techniques give the pieces a holistic impression, with simple and clean depictions, but on closer inspection, they are far more complex.
The pieces focus on women, either sitting or in a position of work, such as carrying buckets. They are featureless and drawn two dimensionally in profile, showing a distinct influence from Egyptian hieroglyphs. The buildings and scenes depicted are also in simple geometric shapes and their lines mingle with calligraphy and symbols. These approaches resemble prehistoric art – a simple attempt to represent a historical time.
‘From Memories of a Folk District’ is, in a way, a struggle; there is a time and a place being remembered by the artist which can never be achieved in full clarity. Regardless, the pieces call for an examination of the relationship between art, knowledge and memory, and bring a refreshing and personal perspective to the history of Egypt from one of Cairo’s finest painters.