Tuesday,21 November, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1290, (7 - 13 April 2016)
Tuesday,21 November, 2017
Issue 1290, (7 - 13 April 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Fancy the floral

Gamal Nkrumah is hypnotised by a mnemonic green dreamworld to die for

Fancy the floral
Fancy the floral
Al-Ahram Weekly

“The garden of love is green without limit and yields many fruits other than sorrow or joy. Love is beyond either condition: without spring, without autumn, it is always fresh,” Rumi extrapolates

The oneiric eye blinks. And, one drifts uncontrollably into dreams. Soft decorative lines abound in the art of Sabah Naim, currently exhibited in SafarKhan gallery in the island suburb of Zamalek, Cairo. Painted in acrylic, some very thinly in oils, the works of this talented photographer turned artist is arresting. 

The pious speeches start to touch me. Mercy intervenes. And, her exhibition “Gazing at the Sky” is as entrancing as her own personal tale of trials and tribulations. Personally, I am not partial to the colour green. Yet, she made me fall for the verdant vividness of her labour of love. Her mother had just passed away and had suffered from Alzheimer, and needed much help, it was an emotional strain and she became ill herself. Moreover, her father, too was aging and ailing. She needed a break and went to the Winter Palace hotel to recuperate and to focus on the floral. “It was Paradise, the garden of Eden,” Naim tells me. “I felt I was dying and the floral feast revived, resurrected me,” she told Al-Ahram Weekly. 

There is nothing straight or angular in her creations. All is lovely, all is beautiful. We start in the The Winter Palace hotel in Luxor, southern Egypt, or rather the beautiful grounds, the gardens, the trees, the flowers were her inspiration and she was recuperating. 

The “oneiros” spin-offs are irresistible and there is little room for “oneirocriticism”. Her brushstrokes work wonders in green. The deep pink of the flowers, des fleurs d’un rose profond.  The sharp contrast with the vert pâle is stunning. 

The dusky pink, what the French call vieux rose, softens the brightness of the green. The cactai call for attention. 

And, interlocking crystal flowers that look like stars stare at one. Flowers, the principal inspiration, are invariably a matter of conjecture. They come in various shapes and colours. I look at the wonderful artist in grey and beige, veiled and I do not mistake her love of the verdant green in all its hues, blazing through floral patterns. 

Dressed in shocking pink, the habillé en rose, stands in contradistinction with the foliate greens of the floral patters and the dazzling pistachio of the cactus.

Jalal Ad-DIn Muhammad Rumi adored green, and green is the colour of Islam. The works of Naim is reminiscent of the 13th-century Persian poet, jurist, Islamic scholar, theologian, and Sufi mystic born in Balkh, in what is today contemporary Afghanistan,  “The garden of love is green”.

Some of Naim’s works are reminiscent of Claude Monet’s “Water Lilly” paintings and others are more like Cezanne’s extraordinary “Jas de Bouffan”. Luxor is the land where people go to die, but Naim went there to live her life anew.  

Naim’s paintings are evocative of Giverny. Impressionism is not all about meadows, haystacks, flowers and blossoming trees, yet there is an anomaly in her oeuvre. Naim’s beautiful paintings are evocative, bringing to mind Monet’s garden at his home Giverny, an all-encompassing monolith of a garden. 

The opacity of the colours of her clothes almost seems part of the exhibitions’s purpose. The artist is a professor of fine arts. She physically looks like a female version of Paul Cezanne, and her works mirror Cezanne’s. The post-Impressionism is resounding, And, colours apart, it does goes a little wrong with red. 

Certain works of Naim’s were reminiscent of Vincent Van Gogh’s “Twelve Sunflowers In A Vase”, but yellow does not feature prominently in her works, as green does. 

Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s “Bal du moulin de la Galette” springs to mind. And, so does the works of Georgia O’Keeffe who was born in Wisconsin but studied art in Chicago and New York.  American modernism is an artistic and cultural movement that had a profound impact on arts in all its forms including painting, music and dance. The works of Naim trundles its way into the heart and mind like a hallucinogenic vision of paradise.  

The onlooker should read the synopsis of the meaning of colour in Naim’s works. 

O’Keeffe was in her day a trendsetter. She was the artist who introduced America to modernism, and that in itself was major feat for a female at the turn of the 20th century. As I enjoy the floral paradise created by Naim, I am reminded of O’Keeffe. 

And, then there was Andy Warhol. A chronicle of catastrophe metamorphosed into creative history. Perhaps, Naim is not quite a Warhol, but she does exude a certain hit-woman’s foible. 

Or, Raoul Dufy. Where the viewer starts dreamily to slip into time and space, into the heavens and heavenly gardens. Perhaps, it is  August Macke, the progenitor of German Expressionism, his “Tegernsee landscape” or “Red House in the Park”. Except that the “Red House” is actually the Winter Palace, Luxor, and it does not feature in Naim’s works. The stenographic characters, however, do. Whatever “Gazing at the Sky” is, it is an incandescent juxtaposition of the floral paint over the fantastic photography.

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