Zamalek Art Gallery’s Summer Exhibition opens 1 August with the onset of Ramadan, quenching the appetites of Cairo’s art enthusiasts. An assortment of paintings and sculptures by some of Egypt’s most prominent contemporary artists discloses a variety of styles and textures, demanding deliberation; a distraction from the city’s heat and hustled nature.
Summer in Cairo is often a time for art to bloom. Exhibitions spread throughout the sunny city, drawing art fans out of the comfort of their homes towards galleries to decipher the significance of the artists’ use of colour and appreciate a range of artworks.
This year, summer is a not your typical art-filled season. It is still sunny, of course, but the city is preoccupied in the wake of change after the January 25 Revolution. Although artwork across the country has been tackling the revolution since January, the Summer Art Exhibition at the Zamalek Art Gallery takes you back to a pre-revolutionary, summery art scene, where the Egyptian flag does not appear on most canvases.
Stepping into the gallery, Zeinab Al Sageny’s women greet you at the door. In thick and confident, yet subtle colour, Al Sageny creates tales of intimate families on canvas. A consistent formula for the Egyptian woman materialises in her pieces: they all have, large oval eyes with hazel irises, their body language intimate and their expressions modest, yet warm. In one panting, a mother holds her daughter tenderly, as they both stare into your eyes, exuding their warmth. Al Sageny’s Egyptian woman has become iconic and easily recognisable within the local art scene.
Rabab Nemr is another Egyptian artist whose style has become widely identifiable among the dynamic art arena. In impeccable accuracy with coloured inks, Nemr creates single stories made up of thousands of lines. In one artwork, fishermen are packed together, their hats catching the sunlight as the fish they have caught that day emerge in the foreground. The artist dresses each fisherman in a different colour, making the daily routine look like a fashion parade.
Perhaps the most overpowering piece in the collection is Farghali Abdel Hafiz’s wall-sized painting. Joyful and majestic, the painting depicts a group of boats and people in the Nile that the artist calls a “living force,” which “touches both our imagination and our sorrows…forever magical and captivating.” But here the Nile is visited by white waves that turn into the sky. Suddenly, the boats are floating in the sky and not in a river. But wait! The bold green contours evoke the sense that we are in a playground. Amid the currents and waves and clouds, an orange crown appears on a woman’s head, completing the picture’s royal essence.
Another great piece is George Fikry’s mixed media piece, showing piles of orange and red buildings against a murky white sky. The artist has been delving into social and folkloric customs and is fascinated by Egypt’s unique heritage. Here, Fikry intriguingly recreates the city’s unruliness. The white paint is layered on a creased surface, giving the piece a mystical depth and fogy effect that contrasts with the bulk of bright structures that hits your eye. A collage of red, yellow and orange paper is haphazardly glued onto the canvas, creating a blur of building-like structures with a life of their own. The result is a wonderful effect; like a forgotten city with a ghostly halo around it.
The diverse collection also features artwork by Gazbia Sirry, Abdel Rahman El-Nachar, Hamed Owaiss, Vessela Farid, as well as many other modern artists. The exhibition carries various styles and pieces by artists from multiple generations, but with a strong Egyptian imprint that manifests itself throughout.
Currently open - end of August
Zamalek Art Gallery
11 Brazil Street, Zamalek