…Melds with Her Life Signatures: Zeinab Al-Sageny Continues to Champion Women’s Voices with New Exhibition
This season, Zamalek Art Gallery’s schedule has been busy with exhibitions by Egypt’s art royalty, including Gazbia Serry, Abdel Rahman El Nashar and Ahmed Abdel Karim. While most of the past exhibitions were either retrospective or a tribute to a deceased artist, this exhibition stands out for presenting the latest collection of the great Egyptian artist, Zeinab Al-Sageny.
Still working at the age of 86, Al-Sageny sets an example as an artist who thrives in her craft. Perfectly entitled …Melds with Her Life Signatures, the latest collection carries Al-Sageny’s never-ending battle against the society’s prejudices against the female gender, but with a twist; with the same concept and earthy palette, the artist presents a wide range of paintings made with oil pastels on paper, unlike the majority of her past works in which she used oil paints.
In one of the paintings, a woman dressed in white emerges from the lower corner of the scene to reach out to a boat full of fish resting on the shore, with a bird settling on its bow. Reflecting the artist’s warm compassion towards fellow Egyptian woman, Al-Sageny uses her favourite Coptic motifs, like the bird and fish, to intimately identify the woman in her paintings. When it comes to technique, although the elements occupy the lower part of the painting, the artist manages to engage the eye with a grainy blend of yellows, greens and blues.
In another painting, two naked women, one holding a fish, act as the central element. In this painting, the artist balances her usual earthy tones with different shades of turquoise and navy blue. Despite their nakedness, the two figures come across as innocent and naïve, as the artist depicts them almost abstractly.
But not all the paintings in this collection are abstract; in fact, some of the paintings are more detailed according to Al-Sageny’s standards. One painting, in which there is a group of children and women are playing in a field with a house looming in the background, shows new grounds trodden by the artist. First, the angle of the scene is uncommonly wide, as well as the detailed house, whose structure has a maze-like form, surrounded by swirling stairs. While the state of the elements in the foreground is uplifting, the house in the background signifies their on-going oppression.
Although a cynic would think that …Melds with her Life Signatures offers a recycled concept executed with different media; but Al-Sageny’s argument is justified, considering that women’s voice remain unheard amid the loud noise of stale customs.