Saturday,18 August, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1246, (14 - 20 May 2015)
Saturday,18 August, 2018
Issue 1246, (14 - 20 May 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Dream’s edge

Rania Khallaf celebrates the symbolic paintings of Salah Al-Meligy

Dream’s edge
Dream’s edge
Al-Ahram Weekly

Born in 1957, graphic artist-professor Salah Al-Meligy’s last exhibition “On the Edge” opened on Sunday at the Nile Art Gallery. It features 16 acrylic paintings that combine graphic with painting techniques. The theme, recurrent in many exhibitions in Cairo, is women.

According to Al-Meligy the edge is a multiple symbol: “It is the edge separating women’s beautiful bodies from their magical spirits, for example. For a long time, I worked in an abstract style, but when I decided to deal with women, I found out that I needed to develop a portraiture technique.”

Yet the figures in the exhibition are still more or less abstract, showing no adherence to the details of the human body and showing the women with their eyes closed, occasionally with body parts detached evoking a surrealist dream. But that is to communicate life’s conflicts, Al-Meligy explains: desire on the one hand, and the complex nature of women on the other.

The edge also symbolises a point of transition in the artist’s own life and even his career: “It is a point at which I am in repose, standing still to meditate on my past and think about the future. Women cannot be reduced to their desirable bodies,” Al-Meligy adds. “They are a lot more than that. A woman, for example, is as patient as a cactus,” he says, as we stand before Cactus Woman, in which the all but abstract figure has a head recalling that plant. “They have an endless, amazing capacity to endure life’s hardships.”

This painting’s main colours in are blue and green. Washed with a faint white brush, the scene looks like a dream. But try to touch the creature in it and thorns will hurt your fingers. In Night and Day, on the other hand, two women — one in yellow, the other in blue — represent the full 24 hours. The Lovers is a likewise symbolic piece that benefits especially from graphic techniques in the background.

The edge also marks the stage between rising and falling, Al-Meligy says. The artist, he believes, should be on a constant quest for new ideas and approaches to resist falling down and keep rising. Yet as if to counteract the abstraction the palette — mostly green and blue — is pale. “I don’t like garish tones,” Al-Meligy says of his 13th exhibition. “I like to send my message in a quiet voice.”

Blue is important to Al-Meligy because he was born in Suez, and the colour of the Suez Canal and the sea seeped into his formation. Green, on the other hand, symbolises fertility, an important aspect of women. It is, he says, the coour of life and energy. Along with the colours, Al-Meligy uses symbols like the hoopoe, winged figures and Coptic icons. He believes in reincarnation, he says: that human beings can be reborn as birds, or light heavenly creatures. “This doesn’t mean that I dislike the human body,” he explains. “I just believe that the spirit of woman is sublime.”

Finally, the edge is the artist’s own balance, which he strives to maintain. “As long as I am in my studio,” Al-Meligy says, smiling, “facing my canvas and holding my brush, there is balance. I was literally unbalanced when I worked as the chairman of the Visual Arts Sector for more than four years. It was the most terrible time for me as an artist, because I had no time for my work.” He might not have concentrated on women before but his muse, he concludes, has always been the same. “It is any woman that I happened to meet who had an influence on me.”

The exhibition is open until 30 May

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