Safar Khan Gallery: ‘A Life in Struggle’ by Inji Efflatoun
Being born into an aristocratic family in the 20s, Efflatoun grew up in a sheltered society, detached from true Egyptian people and their way of life. Travelling around the country in the late 40s, and witnessing the real Egypt for the first time, the artist’s inspirations were rejuvenated and it marked the start of her expressionist work that largely focused on rural scenes. Her colour usage during this period is potent and thick and her subjects large and prominent. One piece shows two women sitting facing each other, intertwined, with their pink and green galabeyas meshed together to create a single entity.
As a definite highlight of the collection, ‘Row of Prisoners’ (1968), shows a row of women, sitting one after the other, intrinsically waiting. The brushstrokes of this painting are mesmerising; they swirl and as a result, the whole picture moves, almost caressing your vision. Similar brushstrokes can be seen in ‘The Queen of the Village’ (1973), where the image dances with movement.
In her later work, Efflatoun integrated more empty space in her pieces and an example of this is Collecting the Oranges (1989). A group of villagers are painted collecting the fruit and it’s her quirky depiction of their arms that brings back some of her older surrealism tendencies. The colour palette is also a lot brighter and less dense, different from most of her previous work.
There are a couple of self-portraits among the rest of the pieces, but the one that drew more attention – perhaps because it hangs on its own – was the portrait done in 1958. Highly expressionist and easily likened to Van Gogh’s structure and palette choice, she paints herself with a certain power that is rather engaging.