‘Echoes of Time II’ by Magdy Abdel Aziz at Al Bab Selim Gallery
El Borg Gezira
Born in 1949, Magdy Abdel Aziz has spent his best years studying and absorbing many concepts of art in both Cairo and Germany and subsequently holding exhibitions throughout Egypt, Italy, Germany and several other countries around the world. His work has earned him plenty of recognition; he was the winner of 1st prize at the 1974 Alexandria International Biennale and the Honouree prize again in 1994. Despite his jet-packing ways and his exploration of other cultures and lifestyles, it’s still Egyptian and Islamic symbols that inspire much of his work.
‘Echo of Times II’ is a fantastic window into well-considered concepts and refined skills. He explores the notion of shape, pattern, movement and tone through a large series of paintings, drawings and prints. Upon entering the gallery the first pieces to greet your eyes are a set of large charcoal drawings which depict a cluster of shapes and patterns squeezed together within their tight confinement and when one looks closely it is possible to make out the vague outlines of human limbs, while in another the ghostly shimmer of an owl’s face. Tone and shade are used to highlight some areas whilst ever so slightly disguising other areas creating a sense of depth and mystery.
Within many of his works, he incorporates signs inspired by the heritage of Islamic and popular traditions of the Egyptian people, consequently creating an emotional and spiritual feeling within them. This is then combined with a sense of rhythm from the large shapes; overlapping swirls that pull the view further into the painting and can almost be described as a code waiting to be cracked, or a series of shapes and patterns meant to be followed, taking the viewer on a journey of discovery.
Each piece presented in the gallery is approximately 114cm by 85cm, though they do vary slightly. Many of them, the further into the gallery you go, are prints where the focus is clearly on pattern though texture, tone, shape and form play an equally important part in his work. Abdel Aziz’s style also focuses on geometrical series, angles and can be described as mathematical in some way and perhaps even created from a formula. It is possible to see this precision yet, at the same time this seems to fight with itself on the surface with a sense of freedom created by the sweeps and swirls of vivid colour; this style of work can be described as colourful, flamboyant and free, juxtaposed with the precision and geometry.
The exhibition as a whole shows Abdel Aziz to an intellectual artist, if you will, whose work is more than just a splash of colour on a canvas; instead, it is a carefully put together exhibition of work that portrays a vision.