The 7th edition of 1-54 African Contemporary Art Fair London took place at Somerset House, London from 3 to 6 October 2019. Mashrabia Gallery presented works from the following leading contemporary artists:
Adel El Siwi
One of the most famous and influential contemporary Egyptian artists, Adel El Siwi has been exploring the subject of faces, which have become his trademark, since the 1990s. As a continuum of his reflection on the human body, which tends to be imperceptible in the local public conscience and discourse in Egypt, he brings back to the limelight the most expressive part of the body against the backdrop of inhibited and guilt-ridden precepts.
ُEl Siwi’s elongated faces, which seem to be growing out from the surfaces, are the amalgamation of a three-pronged influence: the Pharaonic face, the African mask, and the Fayum mummy portraits. This gives form to an array of different personalities: amongst pensive moods and suggestive looks, some faces emanate allure and charisma, others intimidate, others reveal a subtle capacity of seduction. El Siwi’s ancient faces can be distinguished by his monochromatic expressions and the use of warm colours obtained through elegantally and gracefully wrought brushstrokes of oils and acrylics, which intensify the expression of anonymous figures without resorting to too many details. His ready-to-explode static figures are containers of memory and history, while the symbols -interspersed throughout the paintings- introduce the viewer to the non-visible dimension, yet preserving its mysterious core.
Both a fulfillment of different cultures and an icon of African-Oriental regality, Adel El Siwi’s zoomed-in totemic visages, bearing mysterious expressions, together with the abstract indirect symbols and signs make up a narrative that lies between the physical/sensual reality and abstraction, and navigates the depths of the human psyche and subconscious.
Adel El Siwi was born in 1952 in Beheira, Egypt. He studied medicine at Cairo University between 1970 and 1976 and in the same years he studied art at the Faculty of Fine Arts. In 1980 he moved to Milan, Italy, where he lived and worked for a decade before moving back to Cairo, where he currently lives and works. The prominent artist, doctor, and translator Adel El Siwi has taken part in several solo and group exhibitions In Egypt and abroad. Starting from 2000, his work was exhibited many times in Mashrabia gallery of Contemporary art, Cairo, Egypt (2017, 2006, 95, 93, 92, 90) and at Artspace, Dubai, UAE (2015, 2012, 2009, 2007) and in several galleries in Egypt, Germany, Lebanon, Italy, France, Tunisia, Bahrain, Syria, Kuwait, UAE, USA, Algeria, China, and the UK. He has represented Egypt at the Sharjah Biennale, UAE (1997) and the Venice Biennale, Italy (2009). Several private collections and museums hold his acquisitions, such as: British Museum, London, UK; The Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, UAE; IMA, Paris, France, and Mathaf, Doha, Qatar.
Carmine Cartolano aka Qarm Qart was born in 1972 in Buonabitacolo (Salerno). He studied Arabic and Persian at Istituto Universitario Orientale in Naples.
Qarm is a Cairo-based versatile artist, translator, writer, and teacher who has been living in Cairo for twenty years now, Qarm Qart (Carmine Cartolano) is proud to consider himself a Cairene. Over the years, his artwork has addressed, by means of unconventional collages, digital pictures, consumer objects, toys, household items and Egyptian popular icons, issues that impact daily on the lives of all Egyptians, as well as inner mental and emotional mazes that people carry within them. In his last body of work, Qarm Qart enacts a profound reading of Naguib Mahfouz. The Cairo trilogy is the starting points for the images Qart stitches onto the tarboush, which serves as the canvas for his imagined world. Qart’s Qarboush - creative works on the tarboush - offers multiple layers of meaning in the interpretation of Egyptian past and presents. The tarboush as male headgear is now an historical relic. But what about its symbolic force of national and patriarchal privilege? The artist makes us ponder whether this privilege has gone with the tarboush itself as he ushers us into disquieting yet intriguing spaces.
Mustafa El Husseiny
Mustafa Ali Saad (AKA El Husseiny) is a Cairo-based visual artist. El-Husseiny graduated from Faculty of Art Education, Helwan University in 2014.
He’ s work is magical, symbolic, ironic and macabre. One of the most imaginative emerging artists of the contemporary Egyptian art scene, in his last body of work, El Husseiny boldly employs media such as paper paste, acrylic, and collage to show what he came across during his walks through the cemetery in search of a way to reconnect with his late father. Dozens of small papers hidden in the cracks in the walls surrounding the tombstones, which he initially thought to be supplications or Koranic verses dedicated by visitors to their loved ones, turned out to be containing magical and allegorical symbols.
By carving blunt symbols of death, such as skulls and dissections of cadavres, as well as intelligible codes, formulae and numbers into paper paste, El Husseiny emulates the digging up of a past made of mysterious signs and re-conceptualises his personal research into an all-pervasive memento mori. Half-human and half-animal mythological beasts and deities-like creatures impose a fierce and bitter tone to his works, alluding to an uncommon form of sacrality. In a gloomy and restless atmosphere of death, feelings of uncertainty, nostalgia, grief and loss mingle, offering ample space for universal reflection on individual, historical, and collective memory.
Heba Abu El Ella
Heba Abu El Ella is a very promising emerging Egyptian visual artist and light designer. Despite Ella's young age, the artist has held many group exhibitions inside Egypt and proved extraordinary talent and outstanding artistic creativity. The boat is part of an ongoing project, which makes up an installation, with which artist Heba Abu El Ella carries out a very personal research to investigate her roots and the environment in which she has developed. Her work is vitally bonded to the African and Pharaonic history and heritage. The boat recalls the traditions of trade and transportation on the Nile, the hearth of ancient civilization, which has been held up to the ancient people as the source of all life in Egypt. The vessel also reflects the Ancient Egyptians' afterlife beliefs, having been the means for shipping the dead for burial, and thus becoming the symbolic means of transition to a different realm and state of being. By intertwining copper wires and using ammonia and vinegar, Abu El Ella reinvents in a very contemporary flair the techniques of metalworking present in the Fertile Crescent since a very early date. The volume, made of lots of lines with different thicknesses, gives shape to different spaces. The thick lines agglomerate into dark spots, while the thin ones resemble neurons or spider webs. Heba Abu El Ella’s evocative boat represents at the same time a place inside oneself, where lots of forgotten memories, worries, fears and wishes lie, and a place where the thread of history develops and recreates places that can't be found in everyday life anymore. A whole new reality, made of tangible and intangible spaces, intermingling pasts and presents, unfolds.
Heba Abu El Ella was born in 1993, and has since lived and worked in her birthplace Cairo, Egypt. She graduated in 2017 from Faculty of Fine Arts, Helwan University, Egypt. She took part in many group exhibitions in Egypt. In addition to sculpture, since 2015, she started to be considered a theater light designer as she attended and practiced light designing workshops at the French Institute and Falaki Theater.
About Mashrabia Gallery
Mashrabia Gallery is a contemporary art gallery established in Cairo in the mid 70’s. Since the 1990’s and under the new management of the director Stefania Angarano, the gallery has played a pioneering role in the diffusion of Plastic Arts through the presentation of non-Egyptian artists in Egypt and the promotion of young Egyptian talents on both the local and the foreign scene.
Breaking with the dominant artistic tradition, the preference for innovative languages free from any decorative components as well as originality and power of the art pieces have always been the criteria for the rigorous selection of the artists and their works. The continuous promotion of established artists and the search for new talents has enabled the creation of a rich and diversified permanent collection. This includes a service of art advising both for private clients and companies.
Mashrabia Gallery organizes temporary exhibitions on a monthly basis, both at the gallery and in other venues in Egypt and abroad.
Acting as a vibrant cultural incubator, the gallery also regularly hosts various artistic performances, lectures and discussions.
Amongst the founding members of El Nitaq Downtown Art Festival, the gallery collaborates in an intensive activity of exchanges with private galleries and centers in Switzerland, Italy, Turkey, Tunisia and other countries.
The gallery’s exhibitions and artists have been featured in Mada Masr, Al Ahram Online, Al Ahram Hebdo, Contemporary Practices Magazine and Cairo Art Blog, among others.
Mashrabia Gallery is located in the vibrant neighborhoods of Downtown Cairo.