Fine exhibition by 2 talented artists

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Fine exhibition by 2 talented artists

Elhamy Naguib and Ibrahim Hussein are two talented and versatile Egyptian artists whose fine exhibition of wall rugs, line drawings, graphics and paintings at the Goethe Institute, will remain open until tomorrow.
One first struck by the spirit of cooperation, which went into setting up a show where artists with parallel interests have made an effort to show us, through similar media, two ways of approaching certain typically Egyptian themes.
The wall rugs, especially, are the result of ten years of joint experimentation with style and technique through a traditional art form; weaving. Naguib and Hussein were inspired by the pioneering efforts of Ramses Wissa Wassef into encouraging and motivating yet another generation of young Egyptian craftsmen in the field.
They strove to train youngsters between the ages of 10 and 15 to carry out, in exact detail, the designs conceived for them by the artists.

Although, initially, they had allowed these budding weavers to express themselves freely in order to get a feeling for the craft without the constraints imposed by previously worked out designs, their goal remained that of teaching then to follow instructions and to accurately reproduce a pattern created by the artist.

The workshop for these rugs is in Hussein’s native village, Botros, near Cairo, about 15 kilometers beyond Embaba. It all began with a traditional rug-maker called Marzook who made Kilims and taught the artists to weave. They then began to train children eventually paying them a daily wage or a percentage of the profits from the sale of the rugs.

Both Hussein and Naguib saw a show of French tapestries at the Semiramis Hotel in 1964, featuring the works of Miro, Picasso and other European artists of renown. They were impressed with the precision with which the designs made by these artists were reproduced through weaving and decided then that they should like to see a generation of craftsmen of that caliber, flower in Egypt once again.

The exhibition emphasizes what appears to be a growing concern among many Egyptian artists today with folk art, folk themes and stories, local rural and urban landscapes and typically Egyptian landmarks.

Naguib, for example, has used as one of his themes for “Stories of the Egyptian Minstrel,” the tale of “Antar Ibn Shaddad and his beloved ‘Abla. He has done six pen and ink drawings, each depicting a folk tale. The originals are on exhibition at the Goethe Institute and a limited portfolio edition of 500 as well as note cards have been printed and can be purchased from the artist himself.

In these illustrations, Naguib not only shows an interest in folklore but a genuine concern with and a feeling for traditional Islamic design which he believes is not a decorative but an abstract art.

The artist incorporates elements of this art into his own work. By using geometric forms and Arabic calligraphy and marrying these with a personal view point, he achieves strikingly modern results conceived within the framework of traditional guidelines.

The announcement card, printed for this joint exhibition, is a particularly fine example of this marriage. It is beautifully designed and printed with careful attention to detail. With thoughtful use of Roman letters and Kufic script, in dark red over grey paper, it was a most attractive invitation to the show. Tow of Naguib’s wall rugs particularly caught my eye. Both are small and square, attractively displayed in simple white frames, stretched over with natural cultured lines cloth. The first, “ Bird in a Sycamore,” done in soft earth colors, is pleasing because of it’s spontaneity and the sweet. Slightly elongated and whimsical bird at it’s center. The other, beside it, offers a bold contrast with its bright blues turquoise or “Egyptian blue” as it is sometimes called, a good choice of color for the design inspired by the Egyptian hieroglyph for water and translate into the letter M. it is appropriately entited”M” in Ancient Egypt”. A third piece above these, is obviously the masterpiece of the show. Very long and intricate, it is a complex procession of animals, entitled “Noah’s Ark”.