Of man and woman

Yassin Gaber, Saturday 27 Nov 2010

Artist Ayman Taher's latest display of oil paintings, entitled “Of him...and occasionally her”, open until November 30 at Galerie EXTRA in Zamalek.

"The Wait"
"The Wait" by artist Ayman Taher in his latest exhibition at Galerie EXTRA in Zamalek.

Galerie EXTRA, situated on the banks of the Nile in Zamalek, is a small and rather chic two room gallery looking onto the Fairmont Hotel on the opposite embankment. The showroom is located on a quiet street, Kamal El Taweel, and from 9 November until 30 November will exhibit a collection of artwork by painter Ayman Taher. The exhibition is entitled “Of him...and occasionally her” and rightly so for the work is united by a fascination with the relationship between man and woman. 

Ayman Taher, son of prominent artist Salah Taher, has dedicated much if not all his life to the field of fine arts. In 1995, Taher contributed some captivating photographs to the book Sinai, the Site & the History. His work has been displayed in exhibitions in Paris, the Carnegie museum in Pennsylvania and the Brooks Institute for Photography in California.

In the current exposition, the artist examines the human form, male and female, in movement and repose. Taher seems to be commenting on man’s preoccupation and relationship with woman and the inverse, notions of masculinity -  as seen in “Taming Samson”  -  and the expressive nature of the human body  -  notably in “Shake it, shake it”.  His paintings deliver the broad message that one’s life revolves around the interactions and relationships one makes.

Taher’s work also seems to carry a musical rhythm highlighted by his stand alone piece “I will play you” in which two faces glance towards each other and an incognito figure, imitating the elegant curves of the violin, colourfully reverberate. 

In one of Taher's more intriguing works, “Meditation”, he aggressively uses colours, specifically black and bronzes, in swift almost unpremeditated motions. It is with this canvas that one notices the peculiar yet inviting nature of the subtitles. Towards the end of the evening, the artist related his keen interest in “human relations” and the “hatred and love” which drive us. He also accepted his subjectivity as a male, remarking that “man's mind is occupied by the female”. Was this the object of Taher's frenzied meditation? 

It is perhaps in these overarching statements on love and hate, harsh and soft, that the painter ventures into the shoal waters, tip-toeing but not quite confronting the ramifications of these relationships. The works give us little insight into "human relations" instead exposing a more youthful and perhaps two-dimensional perception of emotions we carry in our burgeoning years.   

 “The good, the bad and the ugly”, though a theme and title often used provides for an interesting display in which, through the amalgamation of huddled masses, those presumably bad characters seem the gayest and most lively. In “Voyeur”, a man is shown gaping at a reclining woman as she bares herself fully. The male sans any visible limbs appears to be a shadow in comparison to the central female body. Red is the primary focus surrounding the white characters with a blue and green border – perhaps denoting the river Nile coursing deep through the Egyptian conscience. 

These notions of good and bad, man and woman, are at once simplistic, primal yet crucial themes in our lives both within and without Egypt. However, the apparently undemanding treatment of these themes belies their importance and gravity and though vibrantly coloured and skilfully designed, leaves us with little to muse.

With his next few pieces, “Quarrel”, “At your disposal” and “Rebel”, Taher utilises geometric shapes and lines, juxtaposing these harsh definitions with the more curvaceous human form. The tone is earthier with hues of bronze and other metallic colours strewn across the canvas. The meaning behind this is anyone's guess. Perhaps, the artist meant to contrast the more emotional and graceful elegance of the male and female figure with the harsh reality of the angles and lines indicative of the concrete jungle we constantly find imprisoning us. However, as Taher confided, “my work is not limited to one message. I do not wish to define but to provoke questioning with the intended target of providing a work which compels us to relive it and constantly discover.”

The artist, who manages the Aqua Marine Diving Centre in Sharm El Sheikh, has not divulged when his next exhibition will take place or what he intends to focus on next. However, Taher shows no sign of letting up – a few minutes with the painter is enough to appreciate his obsession with his craft and his love of expression.

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