Egypt’s revolution was the catalyst for an outpouring of artistic inspiration by local and foreign artists alike. Two current exhibitions in Cairo capture the spirit of the post-revolutionary artistic scene.
Egyptian artist Farid Fadel’s “Here is Cairo” and Spain-born painter Xavier Puigmarti’s “Wireless” explore themes from Egypt’s revolution in different, yet complementary ways.
A long established figure on the art scene, Farid Fadel is known for his colorful depictions of Egyptian life and his intuitive approach to capturing the subjects’ emotions as well as the verve of the country’s landscape in his paintings.
It comes as no surprise that his new exhibition, open through May 10 at the Picasso Art Gallery, is an outpouring of inspiration, with a dash of his trademark scenes of daily Egyptian life providing context to iconic revolution-themed works.
Seemingly disparate themes of religious worship, martyrdom and bread are united by the common thread of a white dove, which flies through all the canvases to unite them as a cohesive whole. The dove watches over ordinary Egyptians as they worship in mosques and churches, toil at their craft, secure their daily bread, bury their martyrs and bask in freedom — Egyptian flag flying high.
Despite this common thread, Fadel’s revolution scenes stand out from other paintings in the exhibition for their vibrant colors and themes that depart sharply from the artist’s usual repertoire of depictions of daily life. The most striking revolution image shows a young man holding a flag against the blue sky, celebrating victory flanked by two doves.
While revolutionary images are timely, Fadel’s strength remains with his scenes of Egypt. “Here is Cairo” includes a gorgeous portrait of the Citadel and the labyrinth-like neighborhoods stretching out below it as well as a simple yet powerful scene of an Upper Egyptian vendor with his bread.
Clearly more in love with his city than ever, Fadel’s canvases capture the pride of a great capital city basking in the hopeful aftermath of a momentous victory as well as nostalgia for the timeless traditions of a country on the verge of change.
Puigmarti’s “Wireless,” running through May 5 at the Mashrabia Gallery, offers an alternative perspective on the revolution from a foreign artist who lives and works in Egypt. Prior to the events of January 25, Puigmarti had been toying with the idea of doing a series exploring the interaction of technology and modern life.
This initial idea was channeled into a series that examines technology’s role in the revolution along with more universal interrogations of the role of technology in daily life.
Interestingly, while many modern artists are making forays into mixed media and other, more contemporary artistic forms, Puigmarti manages to effectively address an ultra-modern theme via the traditional discipline of painting.
Rich with irony, and abstract-contemporary in form, Puigmarti’s paintings are both forceful and thoughtful, drawing the viewer in with a simple approach that belies the complex nature of modern interactions between technology and existence. More literal canvases, such as one showing a figure celebrating with the Egyptian flag atop a disheveled electrical pole representing the regime’s attempts to disconnect Egyptians from each other, are contrasted with abstract collections of objects that require more of the viewer.
Studies on technology are juxtaposed with portrayals of the physical reality spawned by online efforts, a reminder that even in the 21st century, technology can only take people so far; at some point, the crowd had to gather physically in the street, far from their computer screens, connecting with each other.
Despite the importance of physical connection, Puigmarti’s overall perspective on technology seems to be positive; his canvases express a sense of connection between people that has been fostered, not destroyed, by technology. Ultimately, “Wireless” depicts a revolution made possible by modern technology, and, in the artist’s view, that can only be a good thing.