Freedom: Amina Salim’s Latest Exhibition at Picasso Art Gallery
Believing that the future of the art scene in Egypt lies in the crafty hands of the country’s young artists, Picasso Art Gallery in Zamalek is currently hosting another exhibition by Amina Salim. Two years after the success of her exhibition Impressions, new collection Freedom sees Salim use mixed media collage and Arabic calligraphy across over 35 paintings that dwell on the idea of women being an icon of beauty in the broad sense of the word.
Not merely limited to the outer beauty of her muse, Salim depicts other aspects of the beauty of women in her paintings. For example, despite looking dazzling in their red dresses, the two women at the centre of a circular painting are surrounded by a rich background of patterns and a line saying “if it weren’t for dreams, reality would’ve suffocated us,” which delivers the message that there is more than meets the eye.
Unlike the first painting, ‘Free Your Mind’ shines a light on how the world is blinded by a certain set of criteria regarding the physical beauty of women. Seated next to each other while dressed in their traditional attire, the artist celebrates the beauty of two African women through the colourful patterns of their garments, making them the centre of attention by toning down the details of the background.
But the background in some paintings can tell the whole story. For example, from the upper torso of a woman painted in sky blue and gold in one piece is the outline of a ballerina, which is emboldened by the colourful background of fuchsia, green and a collage of book pages. This painting shows the artist’s ability to boldly blend various elements and colours to form a whole solid structure.
Speaking of bold, the most powerful painting of the exhibition is one that speaks about the amount of freedom women have in our society. Hidden behind a newspaper with a headline that reads “Egypt is the cornerstone of freedom in the Middle East,” we see a cross-legged woman dressed in a short dress. The painting captures the ironic situation of women still fighting for their freedom in a country that strongly supports other nations’ freedom.
The plight of women in Egypt has been subject to many artistic interpretations, particularly in the last five years. But what Salim has done with Freedom is frame a subject that is often politicised in a way that communicates it on a much more visceral, human level. Salim doesn’t present her subjects as victims, instead framing them as a source of strength and pride that hasn’t been tapped into.