February 5 – March 1, 2019
New Waves in Contemporary Egyptian Art
AHMED ELSHAER / ALI ABDEL MOHSEN / AHMED ASKALANY / HANY RASHED
In collaboration with Mashrabiya Gallery
“This exhibition embodies diverse personal and social views through various artistic approaches, each one challenging expectations. Bronze and other traditional materials are reinvented, and discarded materials such as cardboard are revived, to be juxtaposed to digital technologies. As a quasi-constant reference point stands the exposure to Western media and the alienation of the present Contemporary society. While Ahmed Elshaer produces figures from the popular and mass culture of the Arab world, Ali Abdel Mohsen harshly portrays landscapes of social and moral decay, Hani Rashed divests replicable subjects of any semblance of personality, and Ahmed Askalany humouristically overdraws the human features of anonymous characters. The digital prints, collages, and sculptures of this unconventional exhibition give shape to a small array of the artistic talent present in contemporary Egypt and dismantle standardised formulas of Egyptian contemporary art, offering a new perspective on the genre.”
About Mashrabia Gallery of Contemporary Art
Located in Downtown Cairo, Mashrabia Gallery is the oldest gallery of contemporary art in the city. Since 1990, the gallery has played a pioneering role in the diffusion of contemporary art in Egypt. Removed from dominant artistic traditions or commercial trends, the gallery has developed its own rigorous criteria for selecting artists and their works, preferring originality, the power of art pieces in themselves and the use of innovative languages that are free of decorative and academic components. MashrabiaGallery actively supports the idea that visual art has to be more accessible to a general audience. As such, the gallery has expanded beyond monthly exhibitions at its downtown art space by organising exhibitions at local institutes and curating a number of projects in public and historical places in Cairo. Among these initiatives are Noubar (NOmad Urban Breaking Art, 2005–2006), El Azhar Park Meets Contemporary Arts (2005, 2006), Invisible Presence (Looking at the Body in Contemporary Egyptian Art, 2009–2010) and the From Rags to Riches project (www.projectfrtr.com). It represents Egyptian prominent artists such as Adel El Siwi, Ahmed Askalany, Hani Rashed, Xavier Puigmarti, Ali Abdel Mohsen, Ahmed Sabry, Soad Abdel Rasoul, Salah el Mur, and QarmQart.
Ali Abdel Mohsen, one of the most stunning visionary artists of the contemporary Egyptian scene, creates, through extremely spontaneous and individualised apolcalyptic imagery, an art which is incumbent upon all people. A self-taught artist and journalist, he uses line drawings and acrylic colours mixed with dirt and cigarette ashes on the surfaces of disused cardboard boxes to convey his impressions of decline in contemporary society. Strongly influenced by his surroundings, his work depicts a dystopic world of nihilism and paranoia. Placed in post-apocalyptic scenarios of undefined urban spaces, the scenes portray a society where violence, chaos and corruption have taken over. The individual plays no role: his subjects are faceless victims of the system. In the attempt to explore the grey areas of human nature in a society that is falling apart, the power of visual imagery is brought into play to the greatest extent by utilising consumed materials, which reflect the sense of exhaustion and abandonment of the people. Nonetheless, Abdel Mohsen gives not only an account of contemporary degradation, but portrays a slow war, where alienated figures suggest some latent signs of resilience.
Ali Abdel Mohsen’s artwork, unique in its suggestive titles, such as ‘Slow war’, ‘This a dream come true’, and ‘Razor-sharp teeth’, have been featured in solo and group exhibitions in Egypt, Lebanon, Germany, Denmark, and Dubai. His publications have appeared in important newspapers including Egypt Independent, Mada Masr, Harper’s and Al Arabiya. This talented an unprecedented artist was represented by Cairo’s Mashrabia Gallery of Contemporary at the Art the Beirut Art Fair, 2016 and in the last years has been rising rapidly in the regional scene.
Born in 1978 in Nag Hammadi, Upper Egypt, Ahmed Askalany currently lives and works in Cairo. His work shows an explicit connection with traditional materials and craft methods associated with the ancient cultures of Egypt. Throughout his career as a sculptor, Askalany experimented with different materials, valuing also poor and fragile ones, such as terracotta and palm leaves, and recovering discarded and abandoned ones, such as tyres.
Characteristic of Askalany’s works are the aesthetic forms that place an emphasis on both structure and volume, as well as an innocent sense of isolation that reflects frankness, candor and a poetic sensitivity. Human figures inspired by his native town make up an impressive mini-show of small sculptures, which convey a sense of familiarity and invite the public to interact with them. Fat figures with tiny heads are represented in their exaggerated volume with a playful streak of humor and can represent either a form of social criticism or nostalgia for feelings of the past that have now been lost. Ahmed Askalany took part in several exhibitions worldwide such as Egypt, France, Italy, and the Netherlands. His work was displayed at the 4th Rome and Mediterranean Countries Biennale, Sarajevo, Bosnia in 2011 and he represented Egypt at the 2009 Venice Biennale.
Born in Cairo in 1975, Hany Rashed lives and works in Cairo.
A self-taught artist, Rashed has worked closely with renowned artist Mohamed Abla – who became his mentor. By experimenting with a wide range of techniques, Rashed continuously reinvents himself and his work. His predilection for the use of media images pushes the audience to recognize the banality and the damage caused by excessive exposure to Western media, highlighting the depersonalization of the individual. Since the 2011 Revolution, Rashed has played a leading role in documenting part of the contemporary Egyptian history through his sarcastic production.
Born in 1981, Ahmed El Shaer is a multi-disciplinary artist whose practice spans the mediums of installation, photography, sound and video, with a particular interest in digital technologies. His videos combine Machinima, stock footage, 3D animation and experimental soundscapes. In this work El Shaer, who has a particular interest in digital technologies, employs the West-born 8-bit gaming technology to create a set of portraits of Arab world celebrities, such as SouadHosny, Ahmed Zaky, and Asmahan. Appealing to anyone with an interest in seeing pop culture through art, Elshaer’s works aim at bringing the 8-bit era that has been culturally significant and influential in the west, to contemporary Egypt.
His work has been highlighted in numerous exhibitions and festivals, among which: 56th Venice Biennale, “In the Eye of the Thunderstorm” Collateral Event, Curated by: Martina Corgnati, Venice, Italy. “Experiments in Arab Cinema” at (Simon Fraser University) “SFU”, Vancouver, Canada, 2013 and (Rochester University) New York, USA, 2014. He is the recipient of numerous awards and has participated in several residency programs, such as the Fulbright Grants for Art Research 2018-2019.