The Definitive Guide to Living in the Capital , Cairo , Egypt

Sameh Ismail Exhibition at Zamalek Art Gallery/Kempinski Nile Hotel

Zamalek Art Gallery & Kempinski Nile Hotel: Sameh Ismail

reviewed by
Anne de Groot
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Zamalek Art Gallery & Kempinski Nile Hotel: Sameh Ismail

After
several successful collaborative exhibitions, Zamalek Art Gallery and Kempinski
Nile Hotel’s Chocolate Lounge have joined forces to bring an exhibition taking
place simultaneously at both venues. This time they present the work of Egyptian
artist Sameh Ismail.

After studying fine arts at Helwan University, Ismail went
on to work as a freelance graphic designer for advertising agencies and
Egyptian TV where his work was sampled in various films and TV shows. His
newest exhibition consists mainly of artwork inspired by the January 25th
revolution. Older paintings are also on display, proving just how much Ismail’s style has evolved since January 25th.

His
previous work consisted mainly of ink on paper and monochromatic paintings
in black and white. The designs were also more traditional with mashrabeya
designs.The three pieces displayed at the Chocolate Lounge are inspired by Muezz Street in
Islamic Cairo.

In his new collection, Ismail has worked with acrylic paint and
spray paint. It’s worth noting the significant difference between the new
collection and his old work in the use of colours. In his new work, Ismail has used
many pastels, giving the paintings a cheerful vibe. The artist himself says the
revolution brought him to this change. To him the colours reflect hope; an
emotion that he felt on the streets of Egypt after the revolution. Another new
element of Ismail’s work is his use of graffiti, which is another indication of
the revolution’s influence on his work. While most graffiti artists work on the
street and use walls and bridges as a canvas, Ismail combines street art with refined
art in his work.

The
words in the artist’s art pieces don’t necessarily mean anything; in fact, some
words are merely drawn to display the beauty of Arabic calligraphy. Even viewers
who can’t read Arabic will appreciate the beauty of the paintings.

One of
the exhibitions’ highlights is a painting of a list of orders at an ahwa. On
the list we see shisha orders like apple, lemon and grape flavours as well as tea
orders. When all of this adds up, the total amount reads ‘Al Dostor Awalan’,
or, ‘constitution first’. Another painting shows a sun accompanied by the words
‘search for bread and freedom under the sun’.

The
artist’s main focuses seems to be to modernise Arabic calligraphy, and he’s
done a good job in bringing politics and art together. His work could best be
described as modern abstract. Though sometimes there are still some old
influences, most of Ismail’s work is of Arabic art with a modern twist. If
you’re ever in the Zamalek or Garden City neighbourhood, pass by the Zamalek
Art Gallery or the Kempinski’s Chocolate Lounge to check out Ismail’s
collection.

360 Tip

If you want to see some more of Sameh Ismail’s work, then take the sleeper train to Aswan; his work adorns the carriages.

Best Bit

It's nice to see a fresh adaptation of Arabic calligraphy.

Worst Bit

While passing by the paintings, you must pass through the Chocolate lounge with its irresistable sweets.

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