The Scheherazades of Samir Fouad at Cairo's Picasso Gallery

Nevine Lamei, Tuesday 19 Jan 2021

Fouad's oil paintings draw their inspiration from the tales of the One Thousand and One Nights


What would Scheherazade tell Shahryar today? A question that leaves visitors to the new Taste of Time exhibition by Artist-Painter Samir Fouad perplexed.

About twenty oil paintings, portraits of women with unclear Egyptian features, deformed bodies, and timeless outfits — mostly in jalabiya — are on display at the Picasso Gallery in Cairo's Zamalek.

These portraits of women, in contrasting colors, oscillate between bland and warm, blurry and flamboyant, yellow and grayish-ocher. It is the magic of the Orient as conceived by Samir Fouad.

“Inspired by the tales of the One Thousand and One Nights, this masterful tale that has seduced and bewitched entire generations, the female characters in my paintings resemble Scheherazade, who tells thrilling stories. Each of my protagonists tells a story, in her own way. They give free rein to their imagination. This is how they stay alive for all eternity, in a world of conflict and betrayal," writes Samir Fouad in the exhibition catalog.

It is a troubled world, where women seem weak and lonely, sometimes even worn out by age. They lock themselves in their cave and begin to daydream. Then, animated by a whirlwind of life, they give a luminous touch to this gray world, bringing to it some sensuality.

A game of chiaroscuro

In one painting, we see Al-Naddaha, a naiad or a female djinn who calls men walking along the Nile and lures them to their death.

In another, there is a brunette woman from Nubia or the Egyptian countryside in a yellow jalabiya, who is taking her nap on a sofa at home.

Madiha is a woman with wide, meditative eyes, inspired by the Fayoum mummy portraits. The painting gives the impression of being placed behind a glass plate.

In another painting, a bride in a white dress recalls her past loves. She is supposed to be happy on her wedding night, yet she is obviously in distress.

In short, all the paintings contain very warm and bright scenes, with yellow colours that contrast with the gray tones. This chiaroscuro is reminiscent of Diego Vélasquez, Rembrandt, David Shevlino, or Hassan Soliman.

Sometimes you wonder if it is a world of fantasy or reality.

Combining realism and abstraction, impressionism and expressionism on canvas, the artist walks us through various moods of women who do not dare to speak. As if he were the only one who could hear the pains and anxieties of his female characters amid their contemplative silence. 

The exhibition continues at the Picasso Gallery until 20 January.

Address: 20, Hassan Assem street, Zamalek.

*This article was originally published in Al Ahram Hebdo, in French, 13 January 2021 edition. Additional edit: Ahram Online.

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