Art is personal. The choice of colour, the style and subject matter all depend on the artist’s character. And different characters make different choices. Put artwork by six different painters separated by generations and cultures side by side, and you will see how different they are.
Currently paintings by Georges Bahgory, Salah El Mur, Ibrahim El Haddad, Amre Heiba, Xavier Puigmarti and Hany Rashed are scattered across the walls of the EU Residence in Cairo. The artwork on display shifts from one style to another, transporting you from one mood to another. Strolling across the lengths and breadths of the quiet and lavish house, you can only find a painting after a treasure hunt, but some are well worth it.
Amr Heiba’s erotic paintings are definitely among the highlights. Recently shifting between graffiti and expressionism, the artist’s brushstrokes are here both spontaneous and expressive. Each of Heiba’s pieces tells a fervent story packed with movement. One painting shows a couple passionately embracing, while violent shades of blue and black fill the canvas. A lamp dangles down the painting, disrupting the blueness with light.
Recalling the great surrealist painter Salvador Dali, the clock is a recurring symbol in Heiba’s work. In his paintings time stands still; his subjects are transfixed in an emotional scene that you feel desperate to decipher, if actually break into!
From the utterly raw emotion playing out on Heiba’s canvases, your journey takes you to Salah Al Mur’s dreamlike figures. The Sudanese artist creates large illustrations featuring mythical creatures immersed in deep greens, oranges, blues and shades of brown. The characters stare back at you and invite you into their any-coloured world. They have small, beady eyes and insignificant features, but they parade elaborate costumes across their patterned surroundings.
In one painting, two figures face one another, silhouette-like against an orange and yellow background. But it is hard to tell if they are speaking or about to kiss... Is this an intimate moment? Like being in a field of dreams, the moment with the painting is fleeting, yet magical, like walking through an illustrated book that tells tales of people who live in a parallel universe, in the land of dreams. And sure enough, El Mur writes and illustrates children’s books.
Then Hany Rashed’s pop-arty pieces stop you in your tracks. Huge canvases overpower you with their bright, almost fluorescent colours. Influenced by pop surrealism, street art, cartoons and advertisements, Rashed’s pieces combine meaning with playfulness. He also exhibits a couple of collages, an art form that he has been teaching to young artists in Cairo.
There is also a painting of the legendary Oum Kalthoum mid-song by Georges Bahgoury, the Egyptian Picasso who spent decades painting in France. Bahgoury paints the diva infused with colour, her lips parted, soundless words leaving her mouth. Instruments are visible among the profusely coloured background, and if not for the intimidating silence in the room, you would break into song yourself.
“On the Move” is running until 15 October at the Residence of the Head of the Delegation of the European Union to Egypt, 36 Mohamed Mazhar St, Zamalek; hours: 3-6 pm, from Sunday to Thursday or by appointment.