It is a custom for Khan Al Maghraby, a unique Zamalek art gallery, to present works by their most talented Egyptian artists in a collective exhibition at the end of the season. “In the Frame” is held annually over the span of a few weeks, featuring handpicked paintings and sculptures before the gallery closes with the July dusk.
The show compiles many different artistic voices, with the only parameter common to all works on display is their artistic validity and value. The exhibition is by no means a horizontal presentation of one theme, generation, or medium.
A short visit to Khan Al Magraby reveals a variety of skills, ideas, and perspectives reflected on the canvases and sculpted forms of these Egyptian artists. In the vibrant atmosphere of the gallery there is a sense of sincerity emanating from each painting, with an authenticity from each artist whether his language is a direct message or a symbolic proposition. Physically static works testify to their creators’ eternity and stress the vitality of the Egyptian art scene.
Among the youngest artists we find Samar El Barawy, in her 20s, who becomes the subject of each of her paintings in a journey to know her self. A big canvas portrays her in a short dress, stressing the artist’s innocence which nevertheless contrasts with the sharp red background. Further on, only smaller representations of her face are found.
Aya El Fallah, also in her 20s, is showing two canvases representing the legs of seated people. The contrast in colors and strongly defined oils of the legs, underscore only one of the artistic faces of El Fallah. A different sensitivity emerges from her watercolors on paper, which represent gentle lines of the Cairo cityscape.
Part of the same generation, Noha Hanafy's canvas is a direct depiction of a Cairo urban theme. In yellow-beige tonality she exposes the outside emergency stairs of a building, storage for all items unwanted by the building inhabitants.
From older artists in their 30s and early 40s, Khan Al Maghraby displays paintings by Hanan El Sheikh, Shaker Al Edrisy, Shirin Mustafa, Lamis Adel, Haitham Abdel Hafiz and sculptor Ahmed Askalany.
El Sheikh is inspired by simplicity of bicycles, a theme that she has explored for some time now and which has brought her recognition outside Egypt.
Al Edrisy is influenced by the Dakhla Oasis in El Wadi El Gedid of southwestern Egypt, between the Nile, Sudan and Libya. His oil on canvas is a compilation of nature and traditions of the region, where the color white, worn during funeral ceremonies is juxtaposed with wedding white. Al Edrisy refers constantly to life and death; the mélange of history and tradition is striking in his canvases, expressed through pharaonic elements infused with their folkloric equals.
Not by coincidence, Shirin Mustafa’s canvases are displayed next to those of Al Edrisy, his wife. The married artists they reach for similar themes and are triggered by similar influences; their works manage to carry similarities without challenging the others' individual creative expression.
Lamia Adel presents three figures in the process of awakening, a pencil on paper, with a blue background. Her pencil depicting folded origami paper is a study of shape and light.
Khan Al Maghraby also displays works by an older generation of renowned Egyptian artists. Adel El Siwi's long face is his artistic signature, the same way figures depicting crowds are for Mohamed Abla. Georges Bahgoury never fails in his refined satire whereas Gazbia Sirry assures us of his unremitting sensitivity and skill. Khan Al Maghraby exhibits Sirry’s pencil on beige paper, a study of a human body.
“In the Frame” includes also artists who are no longer with us, but whose art has set a lasting imprint on the Egyptian arts scene. Salah Taher’s (1911-2007) two paintings are representations of women in traditional long dress. Taher’s strokes of knife with oil on wood capture the shape of the figures and the depth of their shades.
Other artists include Mohamed Seif El Din Wanly (1906-1979), Said Abdel-Rasoul (1917-1995) and Rafi’Samir (1926-2004), among others.
As we move through generations, themes and influences, we see a story in each painting. Even at times when an artistic narrative is difficult to decipher, each painting leaves a strong and distinctive impact on its viewer. The absence of a general theme is not a deficiency, but rather opens doors to the viewer to indulge in a freedom to absorb each kind of work.
“In the Frame,” a collective exhibition will be on display until the end of July. Following it, Khan Al Maghraby will be closed during the months of August and September. Each week to 10 days, the gallery refreshes the exhibition by displaying new paintings by a consistent set of the same artists.
Khan Al Maghraby Art Gallery, 18 El Mansour Mohamed St., Zamalek, Cairo