Wednesday,18 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1130, 10 - 16 January 2013
Wednesday,18 July, 2018
Issue 1130, 10 - 16 January 2013

Ahram Weekly

Catch the moment

Rania Khallaf quizzed out artist Nagwa El-Ashri on her latest exhibition

Al-Ahram Weekly

Last week, Nagwa El-Ashri concluded her fifth private exhibition at Al-Gazira Arts Centre in Zamalek. Entitled “Expression of a moment”, the exhibition includes many themes, with the 25 January Revolution having the lion’s share as many paintings reveal the artist’s interaction with events.

“Most of the paintings reflect my own impression of special moments of my daily screening of nature and old architectural sites,” El-Ashri says. However, the revolution paintings give the impression that there is a keen quest for freedom looming over the exhibition hall.

Though the paintings reveal moments of joy, with revolutionaries holding Egypt’s flags or taking pictures with army soldiers, Al-Ashri sadly noted that all this has changed now. “We are all frustrated because of the gloomy state of political instability. I was trying for a few months after the breakout of the Revolution to flee the political scene and resort to my colours. These are the happiest moments in my life, when I detach myself from the world and coexist with colours and paper.”

This explains the overriding exuberance.

The exhibition includes 55 paintings in different sizes and media: water colour, acrylic, caracole and oil. Most reflect an infatuation with landscape, tourist sites with their warm colours and foliage. Palms and trees in green and yellow, infused with black and brown, communicate both warmth and joy, infusing the viewer in a fantastic and cheerful spirit and a yearning to join with magnificent nature.

Most of these paintings were produced in Nubia, which is one of the artist’s sources of inspiration. “Yes, I am infatuated with the Nubian architecture, and a good part of my work is inspired by that architecture and its peerless fantastic nature, with its kind people and its beautiful palm trees,” she added.

Eight exhibits illustrate the revolution; they are all filled with honest and true feelings towards values of freedom and liberation of the mind.

One can generally observe a desire for documentation in El-Ashri’s work, the longing to catch the moment. “Those pieces are a mere document of the first period of the revolution,” she said. “I meant to produce the painting in a direct documentary way, unlike the works of other artists that take an expressionist, symbolic or abstract approach. Now, after two years of sad and depressing consequences, I can see no way out but revolting against the Muslim Brotherhood’s ruling regime, which will otherwise simply destroy Egypt’s civil society.”

El-Ashri graduated from the advertisement department at the Faculty of Applied Arts in 1971, and has since participated in dozens of exhibitions in and outside of Egypt. In 1996, she participated for the first time in a group exhibition of the Egyptian Society for Art Critics, which was held on Al-Ahram’s premises. But one memorable exhibition was the one she participated along with a group of Al-Ahram artists in Milano, Italy in 1998.

“I am especially happy with this exhibition,” she said of the present, unique offering. “It means a lot to me, as it materialised under such harsh circumstances. It also grabbed the interest of the public as well as artists. However, I am satisfied with my previous exhibitions. Actually, I do not have a nagging desire for holding frequent exhibitions, though I always work on different themes all the time. I follow my intuition until one theme is done and then I move onto something else,” she elaborated. “But I am always keen on keeping my audience in mind.”

As an art critic who has worked for her entire career in the daily Al-Ahram, El-Ashri said her job has greatly influenced her career as an artist. “It opened a great window onto the works of different artists from different generations.”

In the same vein, El-Ashri, criticised the art scene today, claiming that “those who control the scene are untalented. It is really sad to witness all this weakness and confusion in the art scene in Egypt,” she added.

Now, relaxing for a short while after the opening, El-Ashri said she believes it is “very important these days to rethink ways to upgrade the artistic taste of the Egyptian audience, to encourage ordinary people to purchase art works, and revive the market in Egypt in order to compete in the international and regional auction halls in London, Paris, the United States and Dubai.”

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