A colourful conversation with 'The Contemporaries' at Designopolis

Sara Elkamel, Tuesday 9 Aug 2011

Tache Art Gallery in Designopolis features a group of contemporary Egyptian artists, showcasing an assortment of pieces that create a bright community of faces, figures and landscapes that playfully and artfully engage the viewer

Adel El Siwi

Mohamed Abla paints vibrant landscapes, brimming with colourful splashes and clumsy wriggles of colour, setting the scene for a tinted reality. Ahmed Askalany creates rough, chunky sculptures that twist and curl and manage to evoke emotional relationships between humans. Nazli Madkour showcases portraits of women, so earthly and unpretentious, with graceful colours often infiltrating the pieces. Adel Siwi contributes with paintings with ripples of colour that induce movement and an other-worldly effect.

Abla exhibits a collection of Fayoum landscapes entitled Chasing The Light, in which he lets colour run free. It’s like box of crayons has exploded on his canvases. The landscapes show boats, trees, reflections on the water and the occasional fisherman. Your eyes move from one snapshot to the next, each frame with its own character; some are serene, others frantic. The viewer starts to question: “What are we doing here, in the real world?” And we wonder if there was a way into Abla’s coloured world, where colours pervade life and nothing is strictly picture perfect. Charmingly unrealistic, Abla’s landscape series invites us to an alternate world.

It is worth pointing out that for the past few years Abla has been captivated by Fayoum and established The Fayoum Art Centre in 2007, where artists can mingle and make art together.

Another painting by Abla hangs on a wall by itself, like a doorway to the artist’s world of colour. The piece, called Fayoum, is a silhouette-like scene, only the orange is not simply orange, and the black is purple. Palm trees appear in the distance, like bushes rather than tall structures. Shards of grass disturb the glassy water, which flaunts shades of orange, yellow, salmon and purple, all seeping into one another. The ground is clumsily painted with trails of blue and purple, dark, yet thick and absorbing.

Before Abla’s painting, Ahmed Askalany’s sculptures rest on tall white structures and create a playground of paused movement. Life in itself is embodied in shapes that resemble oddly-proportioned human figures, and they have no head- which makes them all the more charming. Askalany’s piece, Kissing, features two figures embracing; their large hands tightly wrapped around one another, their grey-green skin wrinkled and uneven, and the effect is undeniably intimate.

Man Carrying Child features a parent and son rolled up into a ball, highlighting the circular nature of life, while adding an exhilarating and fun edge. Another sculpture shows a cross-legged figure, resting his non-existent head on his hands, seemingly staring ahead into nothing. This Dreamer is easy to relate to and exudes a serenity that we all aspire to.

The young artist, Askalany, lives in Cairo, but the imprint of his Upper Egyptian hometown Nag Hammadi lives on in his artwork. His naked, plump figurines are charming, confident, and they make one smile-like friends we never knew we had.

Nazli Madkour’s artwork is in a comfortable limbo between abstraction and figuration, yet Egyptian influences persist throughout. Women take over Madkour’s collection at Tache, sometimes as portraits and at other times as ghost-like beings hovering in colour.

Madkour’s palette is diverse, yet consistently speckled. Colour is not flat - far from it! Like Abla’s pieces, her paintings enjoy a loose application of colour. One particularly impressive painting is one of a woman in a green galabiya, seemingly floating among a bed of flowers while her eyes shut. Pink contours appear here and there, trailing heavily across the front of her traditional dress.

But two large portraits leave a lasting impression on the viewer: a woman is drenched in brown paint that ebbs off the canvas. Rough and earthy, the portrait is extremely textured, tempting you to run your fingers across the woman’s visage. The woman’s face looks deformed at first glance, but as you look closer, you see the gentle tones that caress her lips and curve her nose. Eyes closed still, the woman is standing across a beautiful sea-blue background that contrasts sharply with the mud-coloured figure.

Adel El-Siwi participates with two paintings that are similar in technique, but differ in effect. His painting of a mother and child in a raft, entitled Silence, is dominated by gold, yellow and red tones. It evokes movement, as ripple-like strokes stretch across the canvas, and simultaneously a scene paused-the lines creating a barrier between the viewer and the subjects, making it hard to tell their story. But that doesn’t mean you cannot guess - are the mother and son lost at sea? Are they speaking, or sailing in silence?

El-Siwi’s other piece is, contrastingly, dominated by tones of blues and greens. A woman’s bald head (and breasts) are drawn onto an animal’s body, which is bedecked with gold paint. The creature is lost in waves of blue, which blend and reveal a tribe of men standing in the background. African influences figure heavily in El-Siwi’s artwork.

The remotely located Tache Art Gallery sets the stage for the dynamic group of prominent artists. The collection is varied and forceful. But most of all: it is full of life.


The Contemporaries
Now until 15 September
Ramadan hours: 10am - 3pm and 9pm – 12 midnight
Post Ramadan: 10am – 10pm
Tache Art Gallery
S-139 Sahara District, Designopolis, KM 38 Cairo-Alexandria Rd

Short link: