Egyptian Art Today: Collective exhibition in Switzerland

Sara Elkamel, Thursday 3 Jan 2013

Four Egyptian artists will exhibit a collection of paintings, photographs and installations at the Across Borders Gallery in Lucerne in February

The Across Borders (AB) Gallery located in Lucerne, Switzerland will host a group show featuring contemporary Egyptian artists Khaled Hafez, Mohamed Abou El-Naga, Ahmed Badry, and Hazem El-Mestikawy starting 3 February 2013.

The show, entitled "Egyptian Art Today," may as well have been called "Egyptian politics today" or "Egyptian identity today." The works of these four established artists showcase the interplay of politics with society in modern-day Egypt, as each artist interprets the unfolding revolution and its effect on culture in paintings and installations.

Mohamed Abou El-Naga, founder of Elnafeza Centre for Contemporary Art and Development and former participant at the Venice Biennale, exhibits a photography series entitled "Four Trees in Tahrir Square." Abou El-Naga’s trees are clothed in posters, banners and newspaper pages that reflect the struggles and utmost hopes of revolutionaries in Tahrir.For Abouelnaga, the tree represents the relationship of Egyptians with their homeland: rooted in the country's ancient culture and religious heritage, the collective consciousness strives for freedom,” reads the press release.

Another participant to this collective exhibition is emerging artist Ahmed Badry, who has been globetrotting in recent years and was awarded residencies at the Cité des Arts in Paris, the Swiss Art Residency of Canton, the Delfina Foundation in London and Rome.

Badry exhibits a series of intriguing mixed media installations that probe slightly ridiculous ideas of contemporary lifestyle. For instance, one installation shows an electric iron used as a pizza heater, a suggestion from the artist to poorer nations to creatively handle daily life situations.

Hazem El-Mestikawy, an Egyptian artist recently short-listed for the Victoria and Albert Museum's esteemed Jameel Prize, and awarded the grand prize at the 13th Asia Art Biennial in Dhaka, presents monochromatic cardboard and recycled paper works at the AB Gallery. The installations attempt to showcase duality between light and shadow, positivity and negativity, and in effect stir questions over identity and the future of Egypt: Did Egypt go forward or backward after the fall of Mubarak ('11.02.2011', 'White Cairo')? How constant or rather how transitory is freedom ('Alhoriya Panel 2', 'Vienna')? And is Egyptian identity defined more by Arabic or Egyptian heritage?

Finally, Khaled Hafez, whose work was featured in the Saatchi Gallery and the Tate Modern in London, the MuHKA Museum of Art in Antwerp, the Kunstmuseum in Bonn, the State Museum of Modern Art in Thessaloniki and the Centre George Pompidou in Paris, presents acrylic and collage works previously exhibited at the Safarkhan Gallery, Cairo, in a January 2012 show entitled "On Codes, Symbols and the Stockholm Syndrome." 

Inspired by the January 25 Revolution, Hafez’s paintings are sprawling with codes and symbols that help map his perceptions of, and experiences with, the uprising that changed the fate of Egypt. The paint that trickles down the length of his canvases represent the masses that flooded the streets in the early days of the uprising, while the tulips that grow on many of his canvases symbolise hope and fertility. Ancient Egyptian gods also appear in Hafez’s artwork, prompting reflections on the lines between past and present, East and West, and the sacred and the immediate.

The four artists exhibited provide a panoramic view of today’s art scene in Egypt — creative, experimental, and bound by sociopolitical undertones.

3 February - 16 March
Arealstrasse 6
CH-6020 Emmenbrücke-Luzern

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