Gypsum Gallery: ‘Spectral Days’ Photo Exhibition by Setareh Shahbazi
Breathing life into the suffering arts and culture in Cairo, gallant pioneers continue to open up new gallery spaces in an effort to cater for the endless talent born out of the city. The newly opened Gypsum Gallery takes over a spacious, third floor apartment on Zamalek’s Bahgat Ali Street.
Gypsum’s debut exhibition, ‘Spectral Days’, is an unusual photography curation from international artist, Setareh Shahbazi. Born in Tehran in 1978 but forced into exile to Germany in 1985, Shahbazi presents a collection of her own family photographs from around this time, which have been revived and revamped through various experimental digital techniques. Exploring the remembrance of the past, captured in old photographs, there’s a powerful, overarching meaning behind the exhibition.
In the immaculate, sun-lit gallery, more than forty photographs make up the colourful collection, each hinting at a deep family history, uprooted after the bloody Iranian revolution of 1979. Given Egypt’s own current political situation, this particular exhibition seems fitting to the times. Other than a written explanation of the project, little information is given on the individual pieces, hindering the understanding of any underlying meanings, and neglecting to unveil the artists own memories attached to each picture.
Shahbazi has seemingly taken original photographs and transformed them into colourful masterpieces. One photograph shows a vintage car in negative colouring, stationary beneath a deep, navy sky and warm, red ground. Another eye-catching piece is that of a young child cuddling a cat. Modernised with a rainbow wash of bright colours, large black dots remind the audience of the vintage original.
Contrasted with the more abstract and colourful pieces, there are a number of family portraits; some images have been coloured, whereas some resonate an eerie, antique feel with pale, rose colour effects. In particular, a large group of several family members have been photographed, residing in a barn in the countryside. Another shows a group of children standing together; some of the figures have been duplicated and collaged, forcing a double take from the viewer.
Many of Shahbazi’s photographs are captivating, with many different techniques and several layers demanding attention. The pieces could have been enhanced, however, if little more information was given on the undoubtedly interesting history behind each piece.
Also on display at the gallery are the ‘Limited Editions’ collection, which is made up of single pieces by local artists, available to buy. At the time of our visit, interesting pieces from Taha Belal, Mahmoud Khaled and Basim Magdy were on show; each piece tells a different story, using different media and unique printing techniques.
Gypsum Gallery itself is a fresh new addition to the art scene in Cairo, and is set to hold many more exhibitions in the future.