Sunday,22 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1274, (10 - 16 December 2015)
Sunday,22 October, 2017
Issue 1274, (10 - 16 December 2015)

Ahram Weekly

A darker shade of dun

Gamal Nkrumah deeply appreciates Hend Al-Falafly’s latest exhibition

A darker shade of dun
A darker shade of dun
Al-Ahram Weekly

“Whatever is done for love always occurs beyond good and evil.” —Friedrich Nietzsche

Hend Al-Falafly’s exquisite women are drawn in transparent, rather than opaque, watercolours.  Her women are not insensate matter. Every exhibition of the artist comes laden with emotions, ephemeral and transient like the method of watercolour painting in transparent washes, the aquarelle, she deploys with inventiveness. The transparent watercolours exude femininity in conflicting forms.

“Heavy hearts, like heavy clouds in the sky, are best relieved by the letting of a little water,” the American novelist, essayist and poet Christopher Morley mused. And, Al-Falafly much in the same manner as Morley, All this is a kind of magic pulled off in spite of herself.

Her seductive women are created as if they are an uncomfortable juxtaposition in a kind of troubled paradise, except that the heaven is invisible.

Be that as it may Al-Falafly’s women have an inner strength that shines through the wishy-washy silence of her aquarelles.

Men in contemporary Egypt may seem to have the edge. Nevertheless, women have matched them bone for bone. Al-Falafly draws upon the changing sensibilities of contemporary Egyptian women, epitomized in the feminine physique.

Freidrich Nietzsche’s polemics come into play. And, in particular Nietzsche’s critique of religion and morality. Al-Falafly’s women are a focus for the bodies of young, attractive women, nymphs so to speak.

A veiled fashion of imagining Eve needed a different kind of space one designed for the unenlightened. Sacred or secular makes no difference. Al-Falafly’s women are not veiled. They are scantily clad.

Nevertheless, there is a chastity hidden within, which she terms “Hidden Beauty”.

In a country where apostates, atheists and even agnostics are pilloried, sometimes to the point of exile, or self-censorship, Al-Falafly uses the feminine mystique as the expression of competing wills in a kind perplexing nihilistic epoch.

Reductio ad absurdum, or reduction to absurdity, is an apt term to describe the artist’s aquarelles. The emotions Al-Falafly’s women exude are one would imagine those of women caught having extramarital sex.

The viewer stares at the women’s feet, their hands and their curvaceous feminine physiques.Theirs in spite of the aquarelles are opaque. And, it goes against the evidence of our senses.

Life in Egypt is a game, some sort of Russian roulette, and it is a hard one. And, there is more than an endgame played by money and power, the painter demonstrates. The interplay of senses and sensibilities are her trademark. Al-Falafly is a daredevil. Her paintings demonstrate her single-mindedness and her determination to speak out for women in lingerie in contemporary Egypt. It is ironic that lingerie shops are so eye-catching and common in contemporary Cairo.  

Metaphysical nihilism coupled with Al-Falafly’s defiance of convention and one can instinctively tell that none of her women have aflaming passion for any of the men that glare at them.

“My work in this exhibition differs than the ones in previous years in that I wanted to show the struggle between good and evil through the idea of colour contrast between black and white and through my rebel figures at times and peaceful figures at other times,” Al-Falafly extrapolates.  

Al-Falafly’s women are seductive and erotically provocative. The women in low-bosomed frocks, make a virtuous show of femininity in satin gowns.    

Each painting is something of a polemical debate.

Moral nihilism, it seems, is also known as ethical nihilism is also anathema to Al-Falafly. According to the ancient Greek philosopher Anaximenes, there was not so much a war of opposites, as a continuum of change.Existential nihilism, the belief that life has no intrinsic meaning or value, is a trait that can be detected somehow is the “evil” Al-Falafly eschews.

In the ancient pre-Islamic Iran, Ahura Mazda was depicted as the highest spirit of worship in Zoroastrianism.And, hence, the Iranian Ahura Mazda represents “light” and “good”. Zoroastrianism revolves around three basic tenets – Good Thoughts, Good Words and Good Deeds. The literal meaning of the word Ahura is light and Mazda is wisdom.

In the Old Iranian religion Angra Mainyu, the hostile and evil spirit, the antithesis of Ahura Mazda. Perhaps Al-Falafly didn’t have Zoroastrianism in mind, but Zoroastrianism to my mind, features subtly in her work in the sense of this constant battle between good and evil. Fighting fear and the confusion within can be a tortuous exercise and Al-Falafly exhibits such torture with the marvel of both the masochist and the sexiness of the sadistic.

Yet it endures. Her 2013 exhibition “Silence of Tunes”, also displayed at Safar Khan gallery was a phenomenal success, and gold was dazzling, the predominant colour that stands out. Like, “Silence of Tunes”, “Hidden Beauty” focuses on the female form.

The professor of fine arts plastic artist and graphics to be precise, at Helwan University Faculty of Fine Arts,has participated in more than 40 exhibitions worldwide.

And, the assertion results in a rather preposterous or contradictory conclusion. semantic in the facial expressions and movements of the hands, the feet as well as apparel and raiment.  

Al-Falafly in “Hidden Beauty” explores “the sensation of crying with one eye and laughing with the other and the ongoing struggles between good and evil.”

Her complex perspective needs unpicking. Her paintings hang in the Bibleotheca Alexandrina, the Library of Alexandria; the Cairo International Airport; and the Egyptian Museum of Modern Art. These, like SafarKhan Gallery, are the ideal places to display her talent.

Her paintings are at times simultaneously disquieting and perplexing.

Light and Darkness compete for the onlooker’s attention. Al-Falafly’s hallmark style is symbolic expressive realism through their body language they come to life as real women with conflicting feelings. 

“My preferred medium is illustrating with the fast-drying acrylic paint, a water soluble, but become water-resistant when dry. When diluted with water the painting resembles a watercolour. My women have the unique characteristics of acrylic paintings, not attainable with other media.They resemble butterflies or perhaps flowers, representing the transient nature of emotions and of life itself,” Al-Falafly told Al-Ahram Weekly.

Al-Falafly’s exhibition “Hidden Beauty” in SafarKhan Gallery, Zamalek, Cairo will run until 9 December

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