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Translating sound into image

Mutaz El Emam’s Sound Interpretations takes you back to the time of the radio

Mutaz El Emam’s brightly coloured paintings inspired by radio (Photo from Gallery Misr Facebook page)
Mutaz El Emam’s brightly coloured paintings inspired by radio
(Photo from Gallery Misr Facebook page)

Artists are constantly seeking inspiration, maybe through travelling or any other way that allows them to follow their passion to wherever it may lead them. Mutaz El Emam chose to conjure memories of the past and nostalgic notions by listening to the radio while painting. The results are currently being shown in an exhibition at Gallery Misr.

The collection boasts a group of mostly acrylic on canvas paintings that are very vividly coloured, with the colour blue the most dominant. The focus seems to be on notions of old memories rather than concrete subjects.  Fully fleshed out depictions of objects like a tea pot or a cat make appearances in El Emam’s paintings while sometimes a collection of shapes holds only the promise of an image, creating the impression of a painting within another.

There is also a common face seen in many of the exhibition’s paintings. The face is long with small, piercing eyes and an indifferent yet melancholy look. When we asked the curator if it was a self-portrait or a face of someone the artist knew, he said that it was not. Yet the mysterious face was in every other painting, haunting you as you browsed through the exhibition. In a collection of small sketches made with ink on paper, the face seemed to take on many personas and giving the impression the artist has a certain obsession with the oblong visage.

El Emam was born in Kassala in Sudan in 1979. He graduated from the Faculty of Arts in 2003 and relocated to Cairo in 2005. The visual artist specialises in mixed media and collage as well as painting and drawing. He has participated in many exhibitions in Cairo and abroad.

“Many radio stations intertwine on short and long wavelengths, as well as the FM broadcasted in the ether. It is proof that there isn’t any creature in this world as free as the radio. The radio’s liberated creativity enables you to envision many mental images, unlike anything else.  These paintings were all created in my studio while listening to different radio stations. Under the influence of different sounds that give you unmatched freedom to create complementary images: different languages, accents and segments and numerous imagined images were present. Some programmes sent you back to very old times, recalling with it memories of childhood or moments of work or appointments that were linked to these programmes,” wrote El Emam in the exhibition’s brochure.

If you fancy being reminded of a time that has gone by in an age of fast-paced internet, maybe you should pay Sound Interpretations a visit. The exhibition continues untill 11 January at Gallery Misr in Zamalek.

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