My aim with documenting and sharing my visits to galleries, museums and art-related events is to essentially highlight the exceptional, underrated and under-represented community of artists we have here in Egypt. My main focus will be Cairo for now, and I will try my best to branch out to other areas around the country. You'll also find the occasional travel journal visits of art hubs as well.
I'm not an art critic but rather an inquisitive observer. And I definitely don't intend on discrediting or criticising galleries and artists, instead, I want to utilise this opportunity to become more well informed, delve further into the Egyptian art scene and discover more talents.
You may find my interpretations to be more of a synopsis than your typical critiquing review because my main focus here is the work itself and my goal is to start a conversation about it. Also because rather than proclaiming success or failure, I prefer delivering a general outlining of the work and the artists, and leave the rest to the readers' imagination.
Now to the good part. I'm happy to introduce this piece with my first review about UBUNTU art gallery's current exhibition, 'UBUNTU revisited.'
UBUNTU art gallery 'UBUNTU revisited'
18.7.17 - 14.8.17
20 Hassan Sabry St.
UBUNTU is one of Cairo's most active and eclectic art galleries, representing artists of many different styles and mediums. From showcasing the works of young artists in the early phases of their career to distinguished artists. Founded by art collector Ahmed Dabaa in 2014, it's considered one of the newer galleries on the block, but UBUNTU has surely overshadowed many art hubs by proving it's diligence and commitment as a place that truly nurtures pure talent and artistic diversity.
What I love most about the gallery is how they manage to continually make use of their somewhat modest space; as opposed to the big blockbuster galleries, here you're given the time and opportunity to properly observe the work and have a more intellectual experience.
The purpose of the exhibition 'UBUNTU revisited' is for the gallery to showcase it's vast and diverse collection of artists and their works. It's important for galleries to do so in order to serve and satisfy all preferences, and I personally find it the best way to discover a multiplicity of artists.
A little over 50 art works were exhibited and the artists featured in the exhibition include:
AbdelRahman El Borgy, Aline Ashraf, Amgad ElTohamy, Eman Barakat, Farouk Hosny, Hakeem Abou-Kila, Hayam Abdel Baky Farag, Ibrahim Khattab, Khaled Sirag, Mahmoud Mokhtar, Maie Yanni, Mehri Khalil, Mohamed Khedr, Mutaz El Emam, Nehad Saied, Nevine Farghaly, Noha Hanafi, Rawda Nour, Refki Elrazzaz, Saeed Abu Raya, Sahar Alamir, Sameh Ismael Tawfik, Sayda Khalil, Shereen Mostafa, Tarek El Sheikh, Tayseer Hamed, Yasser Rostom and more.
Note: I will only be sharing a number of works that stood out for me, and for the purpose of not giving away too much, I unfortunately will not be able to feature all the artists involved in the exhibition.
The amalgamation of works will definitely satisfy all inclinations with such a delightful mixture of contemporary art. In terms of curation; from my observations, the works are not organised in a particular chronological order. However, all pieces together provided a sense of harmony and I think the main reason for that may be because all the work shared the same theme, more or less. And that was the 'place.' From the Egyptian heritage to the Ancient Egyptian civilization.
It shows just how a place can become a fundamental component in the realm of visual expression and it was interesting to see each artist create a contemporary visual language of their own.
Nevine Farghaly is known for her work that weaves in and out of both kinetic and iron sculptures. She's fascinated by the concept of motion and challenging herself by constantly reimagining her ideas through this medium.
Take a look at the merry go round sculpture used as a centrepiece in the gallery and you'll understand what I'm talking about.
Tarek El Sheikh is an established Egyptian artist whose work I truly admire. The marriage of his figurative style with his colour palette create a unifying and evocative composition.
El Sheikh's work resonates with so many people and I believe it's because his work displays a compassionate and vulnerable nature.
He explores beauty within the people as well as the humanistic experience of encountering our similitudes in others. Therefore by creating a contrast between the bits and pieces attached to the figures in his paintings, Tarek El Sheikh allows for an emotionally charged and powerful response to take place.
Refki El Razzaz's work is heavily inspired and unified by the concept of heritage.
From the Ancient Egyptian civilization to Egyptian folklore, Razzaz represents his ideas of national identity through ancient iconography and abstract symbols.
He works exclusively with oil as his medium and adds form and texture through his traditional thick layers and palpable, rugged surfaces.
Shereen Mostafa's collection of paintings are an exploration of her childhood experiences and memories, and this one is no exception.
Innocence and naivety are common motifs throughout Mostafa's paintings. Her work manifests an innate tendency to reminisce, from her carefully selected choice of colours to the depth of her composition.
Especially the contrast between the foreground and background. All those elements combined allow for nostalgia to take full effect.
Noha Hanafi's piece was one of my favourites from the exhibiton.
If you research her work, it's evident that she's influenced by Egyptian facades, from the cities to the slums, you'll find her paintings explore everyday objects as well as architectural landmarks.
Her still-life work contains an anthropomorphic nature that she utilises to reflect parts of the Egyptian society. Hanafi is mainly fascinated by disorder and chaos and as a result, she prioritizes developing a connection through her work rather than creating something visually appeasing.
A new artist I added to my radar is Hakim Abou-Kila. I was impressed with his work, and the above image is my favourite piece from the exhibition.
What at first seem like smudged abstract shapes intertwined into one another, when you look closer, you'll find so much more detail, and similarly to Razzaz, a lot of Ancient Egyptian influences. The whole painting is a paradox in itself with so much chaos but ultimately a well-balanced aesthetic.
Abou-Kila upholds a regressive approach towards his work; he chooses not to depend on one medium or limit himself to one category, but rather preserve his diversity.
I was pleasantly surprised with the generous selection of sculptures that UBUNTU had on display.
Amgad El Tohamy's "The Dream" was one that really stood out. His work often varies between figurative and abstract forms.
He manages to maintain a certain fluidity within his bronze sculptures and at the same time preserve the minimalistic features they uphold.
Placed close together, I found Mahmoud Mokhtar and Tohamy's sculptures to be quite complementary, in terms of shape, one being completely round, and the other, angular.
The similarities between Mokhtar's sculpture and Ancient Egyptian art is evident within the features, from the widened eyes to the facial expression.
I found his approach and delivery quite interesting and different than what we usually see.
What do you think?
I only had one remark that would have improved my experience; I found the labeling to be quite inconsistent. Not all the labels included the names of the artworks which I found quite inefficient, especially when I wanted to document certain pieces, and because the title of any work can have a significant and desired effect on people's observations. I realise that some artists choose not to label their works, and I respect that, but it can be quite disorienting in group exhibitions, but this is just my opinion.
And personally, I would have loved to see some more of the brilliant Mehri Khalil, Laila Ezzat and the legendary Margo Veillon. But all in all, I'd say I was happy with my experience.
Comment your thoughts! Have you been to the exhibition? What did you think?