Ofok Gallery: My Country Has a River’ by Ayman El-Semary
Mr. & Mrs. Mahmoud Khalil Museum, 1 Kafour St.
Located in a spacious, echoic hall at Mahmoud Khalil Museum, Ofok Gallery has extended Ayman El-Semary’s My Country has a River exhibition giving a chance for more art enthusiasts to visit the fascinating work showcased until after Eid.
Born in 1965, El-Semary earned a PhD in Art education with a docus on painting, and has since participated in various individual and group exhibitions both in Egypt and overseas. His work has recently been exhibited at the Zamalek Art Gallery’s summer collection.
Focusing on rural life in ancient Egypt, El-Semary’s paintings largely portray figures working in the fields, carrying water, making bread and harvesting crops. However, the most interesting aspect of his paintings is not the clear images of people working, but the abstract canvas behind them.
The artist uses layering in a unique way in his paintings; he removes small areas of one or two of the layers, perhaps through using sand paper, creating an interesting depth to the painting. This scheme of removing random areas to reveal past layers gives the paintings an authentic, antiquated effect.
El Semary also uses lots of carved symbols in his work, as though a language with each symbol representing a letter. Interestingly, some of these symbols compare to the ones used in hieroglyphics or other ancient Egyptian art, perhaps cave paintings or Pharonic wall carvings.
One of the pieces, titled ‘Flowing Gold’, illustrates both El-Semary’s use of layers and symbols without any clear figures created over the top; the style is purely abstract using acrylic, GLC and gold leaf on toile. A wash of yellow, blue, green and grey make up the background which features symbols carved over the top as well as small areas scraped away.
There is a division in this painting, a horizontal jagged line created using gold leaf representing the Nile River; a sacred gift for the ancient Egyptians which was worshipped by their ancestors.
The Nile has long been thought of as an important cultural element of Egypt’s history, rather than just a practical one – a sentiment that El-Semary perfectly showcases with this collection of work.