Thus spoke Saleh Reda
Over the course of a long and distinguished career, Egyptian artist Saleh Reda has broken down the boundaries separating painting from sculpture, writes Nagwa El-Ashri
Painter and sculptor Saleh Reda, 80, whose career spans 50 years, is still experimenting with art and its relationship to language, saying that the question that has kept him busy over the last three years has been how to liberate art from the shackles of conventional vocabulary.
The answer to this question can be found in the delightful explosion of three-dimensional paintings, or perhaps two-dimensional sculpture, that he is exhibiting at the Mohamed Mahmoud Khalil Museum in Giza in mid-October.
"Painting and sculpture differ only in their linguistic approach -- meanings are constant and only the form is altered. I decided to merge the two forms of painting and sculpture in order to come up with a new approach to expression," Reda said. In his new exhibition, he presents the public with such extraordinary combinations of sculpture and painting, integrating the two forms of expression in ways that exceed the separate potential of either.
Born in Cairo in 1932, Reda studied painting and pottery in Egypt, Czechoslovakia, and the UK, before settling down to a teaching career in Cairo. He was head of the Applied Artists Syndicate from 1978 to 1987, and over the past half century he has worked in many formats, exploring sculpture, pottery, engraving, and painting and using a variety of materials ranging from ceramic to copper, wood and leather.
His collages, using plywood, linen and other materials are considered to be modern classics.
In the late 1960s, Reda rebelled against the wave of work that was then being produced along folkloric lines and began experimenting instead with bolder combinations of mythical or abstract forms.
In 1969, he started to use colour in his sculpture, producing astonishingly fresh imagery that went beyond the conventions of the then contemporary art. The romantic quality he imparted to minimalist and abstract motifs drew attention to the dynamism of the linear forms used.
Reda has held dozens of solo exhibitions in Cairo, Alexandria, Beirut, Kuwait, and London, and he has taken part in a succession of biennales and international exhibitions.
He won first prize for sculpture at the 1966 Alexandria Biennale, first prize for sculpture at the 1968 Alexandria-Mediterranean Biennale, and a Fine Arts Festival prize for his sculpture "The Martyr" in Baghdad in 1987. His work has been commissioned by the Museum of Modern Art in Cairo, the National Museum in Kuwait, as well as various companies and public authorities.
His pieces are on display in various parts of Cairo, and they include a bronze piece in the Abdel-Nasser Metro Station, an 18-metre-high obelisk-shaped sculpture on the Nile across from the National Bank, a relief mural at the entrance to the Al-Nakhil development in Shorouq City, and the Battle of Mansoura mural in 6 October City.
Reda is also considered to be a pioneer of stage design, and he has designed the sets for Sinbad and Marasad, plays produced by the Taliaa Theatre in Cairo, as well as for Rihlat Al-Aatam (Journey of Darkness), directed by Shawki Khamis.