It is quite clear that (Dr) Farid Fadel does not know what it means to be an artist these days: His work is accessible, he respects his appointments, and he answers questions with . well, answers.
The latest project by the popular Egyptian artist is “Proverbs & Sayings, featuring some 60 paintings and drawings which breathe visual life into common colloquial proverbs and sayings. Fadel researched many proverbs before selecting which he would depict, based on their imagery and message, avoiding those which encouraged negative behavior.
Fadel often uses proverbs in his own speech but he did not paint his favorite one: “Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, and poor minds discuss people.
What do our sayings reveal about us? Fadel says his research uncovered three strains. First, he says that there is a great emphasis on human relationships, and values like generosity and chivalry are especially appreciated. Secondly, echoes of God and faith are prevalent in colloquial sayings. Finally, Fadel says, many sayings he uncovered had to do with warning against mischievous people and harmful common behavior – especially to do with money matters and being too trusting.
When the young prickly pear vendor down the street told Fadel he was returning home to Sohag, the artist saw an opportunity. Sohag always held “a certain myth for him. Less developed and visited than other provinces, Fadel’s ensuing journey was about “discovering and uncovering one of the most “authentic provincial spots in the whole country, he says.
While Fadel admits he only lived the first week of his life in Assuit, he says he appreciates people returning to their roots. “I like people who have close roots. Going back is nostalgic.
Indeed most of Fadel’s favorites in this collection are scenes from Sohag. Among them is a depiction of the proverb “A cheerful meal suffices many, which shows a small family enjoying a simple meal of molokhia. Another favorite portrays “A word aptly spoken is as fine as apples of gold on trays of silver.
Fadel says he spent months thinking about the various elements of his still life works, after which he carefully selected each item, such as his grandmother’s Bible.
The serene morning scenes – whether a portrait of an elderly farmer, a seaside landscape, or a picture of vendors preparing for the day – are beautifully rendered, encouraging, in fact, the early rising they represent.
Smiles across the paintings exude refreshing contentment.
In his usual style, Fadel pays fine attention to detail and light in his renderings of common Egyptians and landscapes, conveying his deep appreciation for Renaissance artistry. Although this skill is one great reason for his popularity, Fadel laments the depreciation of figurative art among the intelligentsia, curators, and other artists, who are not interested in the public.
While he claims that he does not paint realistically to be popular, Fadel does say that it is important for him “to be read.
“Art is not art until the cycle is complete, and the last part of the cycle is communication.
More than any particular style of art, Fadel fears for the decline of art in general. He believes that art appreciation would reduce vandalism and terrorism and advocates instating art as a mandatory component in school curricula.
“When you have an appreciation for art, you are very careful about things because you revere beauty. You see beauty as a God-given gift . It shapes your life.
“You seek harmony in general and recognize dissonance when you see it. Those without art appreciation, he says, are numb to these effects and “can’t tell the difference between the beautiful and the ugly.
Towards the end of the interview, we are interrupted by a man congratulating the successful exhibit, and asking for some medical advice. I am reminded that Fadel is also an accomplished opthomologist and musician, nicknamed the “Renaissance Man. While science and art are generally considered distinct fields, Fadel thinks the line is less clear. “Medicine is an art, he says. “An artistic clinical sense can help diagnose better than pure science.
“Art impregnates everything.
Proverbs & Sayings is on exhibit at the Opera House Art Gallery until October 28.