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‘We the People’ Exhibition at Zamalek Art Gallery

Zamalek Art Gallery: ‘We The People’ by Yasmine El Hazek

reviewed by
Ahmed El Dahan
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Zamalek Art Gallery: ‘We The People’ by Yasmine El Hazek

Aside from an overwhelming concrete aesthetic nature, cities and urban areas are equally defined by their extensive diversity of cultures. Although it may have its inconveniences, Cairo shines with an impressive variety of customs. It was these characteristics that inspired young artist Yasmine El Hazek’s newest exhibition at Zamalek Art Gallery.

As part of her process, Hazek regularly allowed herself to roam free across parts of the city to absorb the many characters and subcultures within its borders. As a result, ‘We the People’ draws primarily on the faces observed on said streets. The works embody people from all walks of life; from the vendors, to brides and grooms, the farmer and the tannoura dancer – everyone’s role is documented.

While Hazek has stated her style to be inspired by children’s drawings, in many instances, her work possesses qualities from the Picasso school of approach, particularly in the shapes given to the faces of her subjects. She tends to favour bold colours whipped in crude brush strokes and oil pastel shadings against dark backdrops. Surprisingly, her paintings remain untitled, giving room for the contents to speak.

A signature trait of Hazeks’ style is the frequent use of gold outlines; an element that increases the liveliness of the pieces – particularly around the eyes of her subjects. Furthermore, especially in her larger canvases, she has taken the liberty of doodling around the subjects, commonly using slogans or graphics reminiscent of political graffiti.

The most notable painting was that of a duf player donning a white galabeya, featuring heavy shades of black and red; perhaps an unintended or subtle hint at the Egyptian flag. Captured playing his instrument, the drummer’s overall demeanour and facial expression – particularly in his layered eyes – maintain an element of sadness and agitation. Hazek’s aforementioned use of gold outlining is particularly effective in this piece.

With her mixed medium pieces and use of varied subjects, Hazek manages to infuse the chaotic element of Cairo into her works, merging into an honest portrayal of the busy capital, and the regular and, maybe, instinctive inclusion of familiar cultural references, such as bearded holy men and a young man selling liquorice juice, ground the audience in grasscairorevamp_users Egyptian customs and traditions.

With the playful and light hearted nature of ‘We the People’, Hazek has established herself as a skilful artist, worthy of having her work decorating homes and venues around Cairo.

360 Tip

'We the People' is showing in Zamalek Art Gallery until Dec 31st.

Best Bit

There is an excellent painting featuring a drummer playing a duf.

Worst Bit

Some of the Egyptian figures appear slightly darker skinned.

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