Kartonopolis and Some Ten Years After
Press Release Text by Aleya Hamza
Kartonopolis and Some Ten Years After is a mixed-media exhibition focusing on two groups of works by Khaled Hafez. The first is a series of cardboard-based assemblages produced during the time he spent in Paris circa 1994, and the second is a series of paintings and collages produced by the artist in Cairo, almost a decade later.
In the early nineties, Hafez spent three years in Paris as a struggling artist supporting himself with odd jobs doing graphics design and house painting. In the cramped space of his 50 square meter studio, Hafez explored his fascination with the overloaded visual cultures he encountered in both Paris and Cairo. The works that he produced during this period take their cue from existing codes particular to collage techniques of early twentieth century modernism juxtaposing them against those derived from ancient Egyptian modes of representation.
Using a broad range of media – including discarded cardboard (corrugated and otherwise), newspapers and fabric – the artist employs the material at hand to create bare, graphic, relief-like works which borrow their vocabulary and grammar from an array of sources that are ancient, contemporary, eastern and western. Kartonopolis sees Hafez revisit these works that for years been have been neatly stored in the compartments of his studio and memory to construct new assemblages of these yet unseen pieces.
In the perhaps darker part of the exhibition (subtitled African Memories, in reference to the artist’s recent participation and award at Dak’Art Biennale 2004), the artist’s obsession with continuities and relationships between present and past becomes more explicit than in the earlier work. Local heroes, ancient gods and goddesses, stylized snipers, prisoners and decapitators are layered along with textual references on the textured surface of the canvases.
Locating his discourse within the framework of heroes and gods, Hafez proceeds to sketch out various processes of becoming human – animal – god and its manifestations in the collective consciousness. His iconic depictions, at once ancient and contemporary, raise questions about the quest for immortality and the making of myth in a given cultural context.