Safar Khan Art Gallery: ‘OMG’ by Basem Samir
6 Brazil Street
Mon - Sat, 10 am - 2 pm & 5 - 9 pm
Constantly evolving, Cairo’s arts and culture scene has come to be shaped most recently by the political and social turmoil of recent years. Egyptian artist, photographer and architect, Basem Samir, presents his latest body of works, ‘OMG’, at Safar Khan Gallery in Zamalek.
Primarily a passionate photographer, Samir reflects on post-revolution Egypt, and expresses that through colourful, layered, mixed media pieces. Revolving around the recent changes in Egyptian society, each brightly coloured canvas incorporates iconic, cultural and historical imagery. Rumour had it there’d be video and sound installations too; however, we noticed neither of these at the time of our visit.
No information regarding the exhibition, or the artist, was offered at the gallery. Despite this, the pieces were both interesting and aesthetically pleasing, meaning that the deeper meaning behind them wasn’t immediately necessary.
Garish red, pink, lime green and orange backgrounds immediately capture the attention of the audience and give off an uplifting vibe. The majority of the images feature portraits of either prominent figures or people blended cleverly into the background. Many of their faces were either turning away or partially covered; indicating the unimportance of their identities. A few of the pieces integrate multicoloured paper flowers – which have been digitally shrunk or magnified – and used as head dresses for the models, scarves, and as adornment to an image of a black and yellow tuktuk. The physical version of the reef is hung across the balustrade of the gallery’s upper floor.
Refrencing historical, Egyptian traditions and beliefs, every canvas integrates something iconic, associated to the country. One striking piece shows male models smoking shisha, wrapped in red cloth, with their faces replaced with the evil eye. Another focuses on a black and white illustration of an owl sitting prominently on the back wall of a run-down building, watching over a lifeless body. Seemingly overpowering a palette of colour behind it, this dark painting appears to reflect superstition; the owl is said to bring both negativity and bad luck in rural areas of Egypt.
Another eye-catching installation is hung high up on one of the gallery walls. A wooden chair frame is placed in the middle of a colourful background of wings and a non-Egyptian, Arabic proverb, suggesting that a lot of effort has been given in vain. This model was used in an image of a group of shirtless men, all reaching upwards to the out-of-reach, floating chair.
Despite the lack of information, OMG is an incredibly interesting exhibition, built on several layers of well thought out theory which is relevant to Egyptian society, both today and in the past.