Monday,27 May, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1228, (8 - 14 January 2015)
Monday,27 May, 2019
Issue 1228, (8 - 14 January 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Return of the native

From abstraction to figuration, there is a story to tell. Nevine El-Aref attends Farouk Hosni’s first Cairo exhibition in four years

Al-Ahram Weekly

The opening of former minister of culture Farouk Hosni’s first exhibition in Egypt in four years at the Ufuq-1 Gallery, Mahmoud Khalil Museum, gathered together artists, writers, celebrities and officials as well as the media. An abstract painter, Hosni has exhibited at such venues as the Metropolitan Museum in New York, the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, the National Museum of Vienna, the Vittoriano Museum in Rome, the Carrousel du Louvre in Paris and the Tokyo Art Museum. Last year, the 32nd annual Sharjah International Book Fair honoured him for his contribution to Arab culture.

Since 2011, when he lost his long-standing post and was subjected to censure as part of the Mubarak regime, Hosni has exhibited in Dubai, Riyadh and London but not in Egypt.

Ongoing till early February, the Cairo show comprises 40 paintings in water colour, oil and acrylic. There are both abstract and figurative pieces. From Adam and Eve to Masks of Venice and Queen of the Desert, the paintings use vivid colours and bold lines.

According to Carmine Siniscalco, the President of the Roman Association of Modern Art Galleries (who was present at the opening), “The exhibition is a mirror of his complex identity as an artist and intellectual who has assimilated relations and collaborations with filmmakers, actors, visual artists, writers and creators of all sorts, enriching his individuality.” Siniscalco went on to say that the juxtaposition of abstract and figurative paintings represents “two aspects, only apparently incompatible, of an artist who has reached full maturity”.

For Ihab Al-Labban, the Ufuq-1 director and curator of the exhibition, this is a new and important stage in Hosni’s career. “The exhibition is a great challenge and a turning point on Hosni’s artistic path,” he said, describing it as a surprise to public and critics alike and a new “dialogue” with the viewer.

Painter and cartoonist George Bahgory stressed the works’ “strong and delightful” colours, seeing the whole show as a development in Hosni’s abstract painting. He agreed with painter Reda Abdel-Rahman’s view that Hosni’s relief of official duties released his creativity in a new way. “Staying away from politics,” Bahgory said, “has enabled Hosni to express his personal and public troubles more freely, even as he does so from below the serene facade of these works.” Bahgory also agreed with artist and author Mohamed Baghdady, who feels that the exhibition is an extension of Hosni’s abstract style.

For his part sculptor Adam Henein felt that the exhibition highlights Hosni’s talent and debunks the claim that he was well-known only because he happened to occupy a high post: “He has been out of office for four years yet he managed to organise a great exhibition attended by hundreds of his fans.” The exhibition, Henein said, is “unique”, combining a lifetime’s experience with a new vision freed of political responsibility. “In some paintings, Hosni is influenced by Picasso, and this is normal because a painter is always influenced by what he sees.” He also pointed out that figuration constitutes a return to Hosni’s earliest beginnings with landscapes of Alexandria and portraits of his family, which having taken on an unrealistic palette eventually gave way to pure abstraction.

Hosni’s exhibition also marks his acceptance in the post-25 January Egypt. The Head of the Freedom Committee at the Press Syndicate Mohamed Abdel-Quddous said he was keen on attending the opening, having been invited, to help solve the problem of political polarisation in society. “As an activist with Islamist affiliations I have to attend the opening in order to set an example and demonstrate that all political currents can meet and sit down and engage in dialogue,” he said, adding that Hosni was above all “a dear friend”.

For his part Hosni, who served as minister from 1987 to 2011, said, “I am very happy to be able to have my exhibition in Egypt again after four years of absence. My exhibition sends a message of happiness after the nightmare that we lived though during the period when the Muslim Brotherhood was in power. My paintings reflect a new style that I’ve applied hoping that the viewers like it.”

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