Monday,19 November, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1386, (22 - 28 March 2018)
Monday,19 November, 2018
Issue 1386, (22 - 28 March 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Bare bones art

Rania Khallaf is impressed with this year’s Cairo Salon

Emad Abdel-Wahab

The 58th round of the Cairo Salon opened on 4 March at the Arts Palace on the Cairo Opera House grounds. Inaugurated by Khaled Sorour, chairperson of the Plastic Arts Department, the annual salon, organised by the Fine Art Lovers Society — the oldest independent visual arts association in Egypt, established in 1934 and now headed by artist Ahmed Nawwar — is one of the oldest art events in Cairo, equally popular among artists and art lovers. With artist Sameh Ismail as commissar, this year’s round is dedicated to monochrome drawings, with some 90 artists representing different trends and generations and works by pioneering artists such as Seif Wanly, Tahia Halim, Hassan Suleiman and Gamil Shafik. Roaming the three-storey gallery was like being inside a book of poetry. Tagore and Blake were draughtsmen as well as poets, after all. The two art forms share simplicity, spontaneity and a level of abstraction; they also share pencil and ink. Only pencil, ink or charcoal are allowed in this round of the salon.


Samir Fouad

One drawing by Samir Fouad in charcoal and eraser on paper is more poetic than most. A veiled female figure is partly concealed by a window as she looks to the horizon. Unlike most of Fouad’s women, she has an appealing, expectant aspect. But like Fouad’s work in general the piece is full of movement, conveyed here in terms of light and shadow as well as the way the woman is looking out at something or someone yet unseen; the viewer shares her anticipation. The celebrated painter Omar Al-Fayoumi provides a variation on the theme of his 2017 Capital Gallery exhibition: the figure of the magician. In his 70x90cm ink on paper drawing, Al-Fayoumi portrays a group of magicians, formally dressed, each with two tiny horns on his head. Some suits are darker than other, but the light space — between the figures and in the sky — is limited and seems to be shrinking, suggesting that evil is defeating good.


Randa Fakhry

A promising young artist, Randa Fakhri contributes two drawings of a woman and a bird that seem to be intimately connected, while Soad Abdel-Rasoul — also in two pieces — portrays a giant foetus besieged in a stamp-spattered test tube, its heart in its head. A scream of the unconscious, is this an expression of identity, damnation or simply waiting to be born? The image lingers like something gleaned from a poem. So too are the two drawings by Emad Abdel-Wahab, collectively entitled “An Exit”. Two m by one m in size, they each feature two distinctly un-erotic nudes. In the first both their heads are covered by a rug: “a gate through which our traditional values penetrates to our minds and souls”, as the artist explains it. In the second, the rug is on the floor, separating rather than connecting them as they lie helpless and exposed.


Soad Abdel-Rasoul

In Mamdouh Al-Kassifi’s two drawings, “Heartless Cities”, a well-known collection of poems by the senior poet Ahmed Abdel-Moeti Hegazi. The unique drawings achieve a familiarity between the artist’s cheerfully surreal human figures and the walls and balconies of the popular neighbourhood in which he places them. In one drawing, living and inanimate objects interact in curious ways: an arm penetrates a wall, reaching the table outside the building. In the second, four squares contain different scenes with two isolated human figures: one is too big for the space and has incomplete eyes and an empty smile; another, smaller and more tentative, peacefully plays the oud; they portray the tension between materialism and the human spirit. 

Equally interesting is a pencil on paper drawing by the prominent sculptor Khaled Zaki. It features two human figures hugging each other: a man and a woman, their bodies interconnected in such a way it is hard to tell them apart. A feeling of horror and insecurity keeps them together, which you can only respond to with a compassionate smile. 


The salon runs through 29 March.

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