I belong to a generation of artists that spent their childhood, adolescence and adulthood surrounded by stress: military confrontations, unexpected political landmarks, and the subsequent effervescent socioeconomic consequences.
The Egyptian society was reshaped according to continuous changes since the mid-seventies, losing in the way some of its Orient character, and acquiring instead other traits, some of which are part of the globalization process, others are simply deviations towards the consumer goods culture. The impact of the rather rapid change can be seen and felt in the works of artists living today.
Many young Egyptian artists today lost interest in issues like the local authentic versus the contemporary, or the intellectual versus the aesthetic. Many of us like to tackle more challenging issues like the sacred versus the commercial.
In my work some elements and themes appear and reappear all the time. Many young contemporary Egyptian artists use these elements, though in different ways.
For decades the legend or fiction has attracted many artists: Abdel Hady El Gazzar and Hamed Nada (local magic realist legend). Helmi El Toni and Ihab Shaker (folk legend, with inclination to illustration). Evelyne Ashamalla (magic fictious legend where each painting tells a story). Mahmoud Hamed (non-realistic abstract magic legend, where free spontaneous painting gestures are mingled with the visually figurative elements of the legend).
The legend and/or fiction in my work is an extension to the legendary heroes in today’s soap operas and movies, where some street adolescents of Cairo, Beirut or Kuwait share the same morphological (only morphological) image with those in the streets of New York. Same basketball T-shirts, and same rapper’s-hair-cut. My hero is the universal twentieth century hero. He is James Bond and Rambo. He is shoot-dance-kick-and-hug, and certainly kisses.
In my collages, I always use the kiss scenes, always the final scene, since we, in our state of continuous daily image-reception, have seen all the movies, all the events, all the wars. We have done it all. We have seen it all. So let us cut it short and see the final kiss.
Today, here or there, universal icons follow us, even at home: Top-models (there) or theology monopolists of science-and-faith (here), filthy-rich tycoons and unqualified politicians (here and there). From universal icons I weave my legend.
I use old paper in my collages, yellowed either naturally or by age or artificially by excessive solar exposure, or sometimes by actual burning. Yellow pages are examples of mummified past, the icons are today’s present and painted distorted figures are a proposal for a parallel future.
Is the world where universal icons function. Manipulating actual scenes by collage to create fictious place or space always attracted me.
Is touched by mingling our own experiences with icons’ legends in their time and space.
My initial worry before starting a project is trying to create an intelligent work, not an aesthetic one. Visual illusions provide an interesting outcome many times.
The project Visions of a Rusty Memory is executed in black and white, the basic colors for dreams and nostalgia. Yellow papers are added sometimes to create a visual-memory illusion of time. Only either black or white acrylic or oil colors were used with the collages. Thick layers of oil paint were added to the white backgrounds to improve textures.
A sarcastic regard to the tradition of painting and its sacred and commercial contents while respecting the elegance of the work. The masks of ancient Egyptian Gods like Anubis the jackal (sacred) crowns the hair-styled heads of today’s half naked icons (commercial). In the background is a final kiss from a final scene of some very commercial bestseller movie. Everything remains ephemeral.
Khaled Hafez 2005