Al Masar Gallery/Art Lounge: ‘Gallery Artists’ Group Exhibition
With all the chaos of recent events, Cairo’s arts and culture scene has suffered, with many of the city’s gallery becoming stagnant. In celebration of numerous gallery artists, Al Masar Gallery and its adjoining Art Lounge in Zamalek are running a group exhibition to show case work from Egyptian artists, with late, modern and contemporary focus.
The artwork is hung on the walls of both spacious, immaculate galleries, with some of the artists’ collections scattered through various different rooms, which made for interesting viewing. Unfortunately, no information on the artists or their work was available at the time of our visit; we were left to interpret the pieces in our own way.
Possibly the most recognisable work belonged to the renowned Georges Bahgory, and included several of his brightly coloured, busy paintings. One of his most recent pieces, The Coffee Reader is a fun depiction of a plump fortune-teller, whilst El Bazaar captures the vibrancy and liveliness of traditional souks. Bahgory has a way of celebrating Egyptian culture and iconic figures; Tutankhamun Playing the Cello and Om Kolthoum Singing from Heaven stood out in the exhibition.
Many of the paintings belonged to internationally acclaimed artist, Hamdi Attia. Three large pieces appeared to be a series, but were split up around the gallery. First, Daisies depicts a field of yellow flowers, through which several workers with hard hats are walking, presumably to reach the industrial building in the background. The next, The British are Coming, draws darker emotions, with its use of emerald green scenery, neon orange splatters and abstract representation of a building similar to the iconic Gherkin in London. The final piece, Split Button, seems to be the artist’s abstraction of a famous structure inspired by William Penn. The painting shows a gloomy, cloudy sky over a broken mound, complete with several pictures of sports figures and a plane flying overhead. Along the bottom of each, a single sentence links the pieces to one another. Hamdi Attia also presents a set of three portraits aptly titled Faces; the faces in all of them are filled with block colours, seemingly dripping or melting down the canvas.
Several powerful pieces by Taha Hussein also appear as part of the eclectic exhibition. The intricate but modern paintings are composed with an abundance of layers, bold colours and textures which blended into one another; although visually attention-grabbing, the shapes and letters in all of these pieces are difficult to distinguish from the busy backgrounds. Ahmed Farid also built his pieces using similar layering techniques, though they were much easier to make sense of; with familiar scenes of built-up areas, his piece, Golden Slums, uses white, black and gold accents to outline a run-down, busy residential area.
Mounir Canaan’s work was also intriguing, made up of collages of mixed media. One piece in particular, Power, focuses on a dishevelled cardboard box, seemingly imported from the USA. Another piece, titled Rejection, is pieced together using Kodak packaging paper. Omar El Nagdy’s work varies in style and largely contrasts earthy colours with richer shades. Nubian Harp Player, meanwhile, is painted in the style of Klimt and is both abstract and aesthetically pleasing.
Single paintings from Ibrahim El Dessouky, Kareem Al Qurity, Mahmoud Abdullah and a sculpture from Nagi Farid also helps fill out the diverse exhibition.
This exhibition acts as a great reminder of Egypt’s deep well of artistic talent; however, as a collection, it’s slightly overwhelming and unfocused.