History may say what it wishes in Egypt’s name
Egypt, for me, is the most beloved and most beautiful of things.
I love her when she owns the earth, east and west.
And I love her when she is down, wounded in battle.
I love her fiercely, gently and with modesty.
I hate her and curse her with the passion of the lovesick.
I leave her and flee down one path, and she remains in another
She turns to find me beside her in misfortune
My viens pulsating with a thousand tunes and rhythms
In Egypt’s name.
Salah Jahin (1930-1986)
If Salah Jahin played a pivotal role in the development of Egyptian colloquial poetry with an innate nationalistic flair, Alexandria-based visual artist Guirguis Lotfy is probably the only painter in Egypt whose oeuvre constitutes what he and each one of us can identify as our Egypt. In fact, Lotfy is probably the only Egyptian painter who has a work depicting each and every single Egyptian feast, celebration, ritual and tradition – be it Pharaonic, Islamic or Coptic. Describing his artistic process as literally looking out his window and painting what he sees, Lotfy has shown an indefatigable commitment to his country by bringing forth its homogenous character. Genuinely capturing what it is to be Egyptian, he shows that neither religion nor social status can tear us a part. The apparent simplicity and naivety of his paintings depicting every day mundane scenes of every day mundane people seize the spirit, authenticity and tolerance of Egyptians. Lotfy’s work acts as a gentle reminder that what we have in common is far more important than what could differentiate us. His reverence for the diversity of our culture acts as symbol for our collective cultural identity, drawn from our most important common denominator – our popular rituals. For Guirguis Lotfy, Egypt is one and many; it is yesterday, today and tomorrow; it is his primary source of inspiration and he intends to make it eternal.
His use of wax or tempera colors dissolved in egg yolk – an ancient elaborate and long forgotten painting technique used in religious iconography and the famed Fayoum portraits almost two millennia ago is yet again a testament of his love affair with the one and only Egypt.
Born in 1955, Guirguis Lotfy lives and works in Alexandria, Egypt. After receiving a BFA from Alexandria Faculty of Fine Arts in 1980, Lotfy went on to pursue his MFA on “Coptic painting from the 4th to the 8th Century” in 1990 and his PhD on “Coptic Art and its influence on Modern Art” in 1994 from the Cairo Faculty of Fine Arts. Hamed Owais (1919-2011) and Hamed Nada (1924-1990), two of Egypt’s pivotal modern pioneer artists, were closely involved at different stages in the supervision of Guirguis Lotfy’s masters and doctorate degrees respectively.