Al Masar Gallery: ‘Dialogue of Mind & Soul’ by Georges Bahgory
Georges Bahgory, often referred to as the ‘granddaddy of Egyptian
caricature’ is known – not only for his political cartoons – but also for his
vivid, colourful representations through his paintings. The large exhibition of
his work, ‘Dialogue of Mind & Soul’ at Al Masar Gallery in Zamalek presents
This collection, as it’s title suggests, represents the dialogue between
the artist’s mind and his soul. As a way of rationalising his thoughts, it
seems Bahgory has thrown his feelings, onto the canvases all at once, which has
resulted in busy, intense and energising paintings; most giving off a cheerful,
Full of warm Mediterranean colours, the
paintings are made up of an array of mixed media and several incorporate the
khayameya pattern; a print strongly associated with Egypt. Many of the
paintings were easy to relate to; they show familiar scenes of traditional
daily life and culture within Egypt.
Bahgory takes his inspiration from everyday occurrences; in two
related pieces he captures a sight typical to Egypt, one which we are
particularly fond of; the making, carrying and selling of balady bread. The
first of the energized, colourful paintings, titled ‘The Bread Seller 1’,
shows a figure on a bicycle painfully manoeuvring a crate of handmade bread through a
crowd on their head. The second, it’s sequel, ‘The Bread Seller 2’, portrays the
bread being sold at a market to a swarm of anonymous hands and blank
Another characterful painting was a jazzy, stimulating depiction of one
of Cairos most cultural market places and old-school chill out spots; Khan El
Khalili. The lively piece incorporates smoking
shisha pipes, cigarettes, an ongoing backgammon game and of course, lots of
cups of tea. The warm, background colours and khayameya patterns reflect the
welcoming atmosphere associated with the marketplace.
Continuing around the exhibition, we came across another painting
strongly affiliated with daily life in Egypt; the spectacle of Friday prayer. With its subjects all dressed in traditional white galabeya, the scene is somewhat chaotic. Several groups are shown to be at different stages of prayer; be it removing footwear on entry to the mosque, kneeling or standing. What stabilises the image as a scene, however, is the fact that all the figures share resolute, firm facial expressions.
Although most of Bahgory’s paintings are light-hearted and aesthetically interesting, some reveal a more seedy side to some traditions. For example, his
portrait of a plump belly dancer performing in close proximity to an Egyptian musician straddles the line of humour and the sleazy contradictions of a broken society.
The majority of the paintings in ‘Dialogue of Mind and Soul’ do not
require a great deal of thought, particularly for Cairenes, as they directly
construe scenes that are commonplace in Egypt. George Bahgory’s exhibition
highlights some wonderful and unique characteristics of the country we live in,
which, amongst the chaos and hubbub of our busy schedules, can often be left
ignored and unappreciated.