Metamorphosis: the language of art

Sara El-Kamel, Tuesday 6 Dec 2011

Gamal Meleka’s collection of spontaneous paintings capture his feelings in a blur of colour, recount Egyptian history in palpable emotion


In Metamorphosis, a collection of paintings, we experience colour in raw form. Like childish doodles, only much more artful and infused with layers of memories and emotions, Gamal Meleka’s paintings intrigue and comfort.

Rich with lively colours and figures that seem to move; each piece is a story in its own right. Characterised with motion and spontaneity, Meleka’s style not only recreates a scene from his memory; it also takes the viewer inside it.

On the white walls of the petite gallery Meleka frequently infuses the Sphinx and the Pyramids among webs of frenzied colour. Like a doorway to a more colourful, alternate world, Meleka’s artwork is bold and candid.

Exhibition titled Metamorphosis is originally a four year-old collection that the artist dedicated solely to the half-lion, half-man Sphinx. The message was simple: a contemporary perspective on the legendary ancient Egyptian symbol.

Meleka strays away from the monochromatic sandy colour, and clothes the icon with a dynamic palette that “expresses his soul, his appearance.” The Sphinx tells the story of his own history and takes you through the portals of time - ancient and modern.

The artist has been living in Italy for the past 35 years, yet his Egyptian heritage shines through his art.

“It is all about your roots,” Meleka says. Within the inarticulate mess of colour in each of his paintings, we spot authentic Egyptian icons and sense an authentic Egyptian feel.

One of the most striking pieces is a red-based canvas with a myriad of moving figures stretched out across the surface. Pyramids are scribbled everywhere. The crowdedness of the piece is atmospherically reminiscent of Cairo’s hustle and bustle. “This piece reflects the fast-paced society that we live in today.”

Meleka says he attempts to record emotions through his art. “Feelings are fleeting,” he says. “That’s why you can’t hesitate as you document it with every brushstroke.”

Gamal Meleka’s art depends on motion, and a fast-paced nature pervades his paintings.

“Speed is the most important element,” Meleka says before being interrupted by one of his guests. Surprisingly, he picks up exactly where he leaves off. “This speed reflects an internal feeling, which comes for a moment, and then passes you by.”

"The faster you work, the more you are able to preserve the feeling exactly as it first materialised", Meleka explains. “The artist should really attempt to capture the moment, and reflect it in a moment,” he says.

Meleka is very keen on creating every art piece on the spot. He does not believe in going back and meticulously fixing every colour and every brushstroke, because every movement is a feeling. “How can I go back and fix a feeling?”

Meleka says he uses colour to give dimension and meaning to his paintings. “The colours I use reflect the texture of Cairo, they are vibrant, yet murky, as if there is a coat of dust on the surface.”  It’s all very bold, very alive, and very honest.

Meleka is inspired by the old and new colours of Cairo. The artist insists that Italy, his home for over three decades now, has only matured his artistic vision. But it has not affected his roots.

Originally from Egypt, now Gamal Meleka lives in Italy, where he studied Philosophy of Art in Milan.


Open now until 31 December
The Safarkhan Art Gallery
6 Brazil St., Zamalek, Cairo
Monday - Saturday, 10am - 1:30pm, and again from 5pm - 9pm


*The painter, in naming his exhibition Metamorphosis, doesn't seem to refer to Kafka's The Metamorphosis.

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