Taking over Safar Khan Gallery in Zamalek for the larger part of February is contemporary artist Ahmed Kassim’s latest exhibition, ‘Chaotic Order’.
From the outside of the large-windowed gallery, the exhibition looked very promising, drawing us in with expansive pieces filled with pleasing hues and decorative patterns. The premise of his exhibition is to reflect on Egypt’s current political situation; using symbols, icons and associative elements, the artist aims to convey his personal feelings, while allowing enough room for the viewer to interpret it in their own way, as well.
The first thing that stood out in regards to the work was the technique, or lack thereof. This is specifically in reference to first two pieces hung closest to the door. Using an alien-meets-robot figure in the foreground, the Oriental motif background ended up standing out more due to its messiness rather than its expertise. The contrast between the traditional and futuristic is intriguing, but the clumsy implementation certainly left us a bit underwhelmed.
Kassim’s larger pieces are significantly better. He uses owls in one of them to represent all sorts of figures and political notions. An owl depicts the army, another is religious persecution, while a large one – somewhat camouflaged in the background – is meant to be the ‘third hand’ of the revolution and carries a gun pointed at the owl of deceased sheikh, Emad Effat.
Another large piece shows two of the alien-meets-robot figures sitting on a couch playing videogames with titles such as ‘democracy game’, ‘betrayal game’ and ‘retreat game’. Kassim’s artistic ability shines most in this painting; the geometric shapes in the foreground, the detailing of the furniture and his overall technique are at their most refined.
Our favourite piece of all of them, however, was hanging on the upper floor and was, on the contrary, minimalistic in comparison. Using a pale grey with slight shading to bring out the shapes of buildings, there is a silhouette of a man on the bottom right corner who seems to be peeing. The yellow stream is also seen coming down from the rooftops of two facing buildings, offering the only hint of colour in the whole piece. This symbolism we appreciated most because of its simplicity, conciseness and humour.
Kassim’s approach to the current situation sees him build layers that give the viewer endless associations, interpretations and stories to run with. However, some pieces also felt slightly amateurish and in need of some cleaner lines and heightened technique.