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Wednesday, 15 July 2020

'Time for change': Adam Abd El Ghaffar challenges Egypt's art of posters

In his solo exhibition Affiche Plaisir, graphic designer Adam Abd El Ghaffar offers a selection of new posters for well known Egyptian films

Nahed Nasr, Sunday 12 Jun 2016
poster
Posters by Adam Abd El Ghaffar
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Adam Abd El Ghaffar is displaying his work in a solo exhibition named Affiche Plaisir in Gallery Misr until the end of Ramadan.

Showcasing redesigns of posters from iconic Egyptian movies is a rather new creative endeavour that this young Egyptian artist with a background in advertising and graphic design has decided to take on.

In the statement accompanying the display, the artist says that the traditional commercial role of the film poster is changing and the artists should take the lead to define its new function.

Ahram Online met with Abd El Ghaffar in an attempt to understand more about his artistic vision.

Ahram Online (AO): After a career of ten years in the commercial advertising field, why this shift to exhibit in an art gallery?

Adam Abd El Ghaffar (AAG): Painting was my hobby since childhood, though I did not study art academically. I graduated from the faculty of commerce, then I started working in a print house in the graphic design field. I took many courses and I became a professional designer working for renowned advertising companies.

Though advertising is a creative field, you do not really express yourself beyond the limits of the commercial requirements. For example, I love cinema, and I wanted to draw alternative posters for my favourite films. At the beginning I did think about an exhibition. I designed four posters for the films by director Marawan Hamed and sent them to the director. He liked them and suggested that I continue. This is how it started.

I had my first exhibition in Egypt in 2015, followed by an exhibition in Lebanon where I included ten Lebanese film posters. I also exhibited in Tunisia with a few more Tunisian film posters. I believe that my works represent a different perspective of how the film poster can look.

AO: Your style differs from what we see in the posers’ design field on a large scale. Do you think your design style could be adopted in this sector?

AAG: Poster art is known around the world but in Egypt we use posters only as an advertising tool not as an art that could express certain ideas or directions. In the 1990s, people hung on the walls posters that included representations of their favourite stars. This is where it ended.

Moreover, the role of the poster has changed throughout the decades. Now people watch the trailers, hence the visual function of the posters has changed as well. As follows, it is time to change how the posters look. My idea is to go more minimalistic, to use fewer items to express the concept of the film, while keeping the artistic value as a creative function.

poster
Posters by Adam Abd El Ghaffar

AO: So you believe your designs could respond to the new expectations?

AAG: The audience is me and you, when people needed the crowded poster they had a different taste and life style. I belong to the minimal design school. Now, people need to see different things and they are ready for the change. The problem is that we do not fulfill their needs. Based on the feedback of the people who visited my exhibitions I can say they liked this way.

AO: But did they like your work as art works displayed in a gallery or would they want to see them as film posters on billboards?

AAG: I guess if they see those posters in billboards they will like them too, but there is not yet a chance for that to happen. I believe that if people liked my posters in an exhibition, they will like them as real film posters.

AO: How do you choose your films?

AAG: First I have to love the film. It is difficult for me to design a beautiful poster for a film that I do not like. When I see a film that I want to make a poster for, I ask myself three questions: What the director wants to say and can I translate his message visually? What was the turning point in the film? What is the main visual icon in the film and which image would summerise it the best? The answer is the poster.

AO: Can you give us examples of how you implement this strategy in your designs?

AAG: In Sherif Arafa’s 1993 film Al-Mansi, in the party scene, the main character’s match box is finished and when someone hands him a lighter, he takes control of everyone in the room. Hence, the lighter is my item in this poster.

In Mohamed Khan’s The Wife of an Important Man (1987), the death of Abdel Halim Hafez was the turning point for the main characters and for the country. That was the time when romanticism died and when the life of the wife and the husband changed. That is why I chose Abdel Halim Hafez’s face and a black stripe for the film poster.

On the other hand, in the poster of 1949, Ghazal Al Banat by Anwar Wagdi, you can see that the impression of Naguib el-Rihani. His sadness and frustrations and the bad luck he had appears on his face, and that is why I used his face for the poster.

poster
Posters by Adam Abd El Ghaffar

AO: In many of your posters you use the English language (with a few exceptions where we find Arabic calligraphy for the film titles and credits). Why would you use English when presenting Arabic films? What is your target audience?

AAG: [In Egypt], we have many xenophiles, we like things when they have English or a foreign language. My target is to go international. I am looking forward to exhibit abroad and to be understood by an international audience who can know more about the films if they Google them. The great film director Youssef Chahin used French language posters for some of his films.

I keep the original Arabic title, only when it is beautifully written and when it could be a visually added value, like the one you find in the poster of the The Emperor (El Imbarator, 1989) by Tarek Al Eryan.

AO: Tell us more about your technique.

AAG: The tool does not matter as much as the final result. I use digital tools and I believe digital art aims to facilitate the work of the artist and to save his time. l love digital art more, it gives you different options to try different solutions, all in a very short time.

I think any painter, even those who use oil, would love to see their works with different colours or different solutions. Estimations are very important for the artist.

I could draw and paint but it would take a very long time and effort, which would be translated into more expenses.

I start with drawing a sketch summing up the idea, then I do the rest on the computer. I make only 10 copies of any given poster.

AO: And what is your upcoming project?

AAG: I hope to exhibit this collection in Dubai later this year and then I’ll move to my next project which is about music. I have considered exploring different techniques in the future as well, for example silk screen print is something I like a lot. 

poster
Posters by Adam Abd El Ghaffar

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