The Gypsum Gallery: ‘The House of Sleep’ by Doa Aly
Ahmed El Dahan
In a city filled with varying cultural tastes and creative individuals, Cairo’s art scene has plenty to offer in terms of style. From Oriental to western, conservative and modern, the city’s art galleries often host a plethora of eclectic exhibitions.
As its second art exhibition, the newly established Gypsum Gallery in Zamalek hosts ‘The House of Sleep’; the latest works from local artist Doa Aly. Born in 1976, Aly is an alumnus of the Academy of Fine Arts in Cairo and her works have been exhibited at esteemed galleries such as the Tate Modern (London), The New Museum (New York City) and the Haus der Kunst (Munich).
Heavily inspired by literature and choreography, Aly’s exhibition showcases a collection of paintings and inks on paper. Though paint on canvas is her main medium of expression, she also works with videos and text collages, producing images that commonly propagate distortions of the human form.
Extending from her aforementioned sources of inspiration, The Metamorphoses by the Roman poet Ovid is portrayed through a collection of ink-on-paper, accompanied with text from the poem that elaborates on the scene portrayed. The inks appear hazy and scribble-like, and require the viewers’ undivided attention to decipher the figures from the chaos. Translated onto paper, lovers Alcyone and Ceyx are separated, and Ceyx perishes in a shipwreck. Unknowing of the fate of her man, Alycone continues to anticipate their reunion until she is visited by a spirit that unveils Ceyx’s demise.
Her paint on canvas pieces are similarly difficult to make sense of, as they appear to be nothing more than shades on a plain background, offering little engaging material.
As with any hype around internationally recognised Egyptian artists, expectations are high; however, in the case of Doa Aly, our distinct feeling of being underwhelmed had us leaning on the old adage that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Yes, art is subjective, but the experience of viewing ‘The House of Sleep’ is hindered by its narrow spectrum of how Aly’s point of view is translated onto canvas.
But despite all that, Aly is clearly a talented artist with a unique world view and we are eagerly anticipating seeing more of her work.