Samir Rafi Uncensored sheds light on a puzzling artist, who seems to have never admitted that the grass is after all not greener on the other side.
Born in the Sakkakini district in Cairo on 15 August 1926, Samir Rafi was a painter, sculptor, arts educator and author. A prolific artist who used different media, (lost) objects, sculptures, drawings, collage, sketchbooks and tapestries, his tragic tale of hope is the subject of this exhibition. With more than fifty works spanning the early 1940s until his death in 2004, it invites a deeper examination into what Rafi dubbed in 1945 ‘an International Egyptian Surrealism movement’ or better yet, the “Rafi’sm” school of art, thereby recognizing Samir Rafi as the pioneer he truly was.
An ambitious individualist from the beginning, Samir Rafi was destined to an impressive career in his homeland. A prodigious trendsetter, he began his career in Egypt in the midst of World War II producing works that were far ahead of his time as a powerful mode of social criticism. His early interpretation of Egyptian ordinary life struggled and triumphed to express the huge oppressions, upheavals, and hard-won freedoms that have epitomized Egypt’s sprawl. In search of the unknown and the depth of human feelings, Rafi broke boundaries with visual innovations that linked Egyptian imagery with the human subconscious, and set out to draw a metaphysical blend of overlapping movements and styles to depict the Egyptian man, to which Rafi added ‘a universal soul.’ It was Rafi’s all-encompassing attempt at Egyptianizing surrealism, in search of a social and collective remedy. By 1945, Rafi had sealed the movement of “Rafi’sm” as a recognizable visual style. In 1946, he co-founded Jama’at al-Fann al-Mo’assir, an artist collective that became to be seen as the most inventive in twentieth century Egypt. This explains why the “Cairo Years” between 1942 and 1954 are generally considered the highpoint of his career, and cemented Rafi as one of Egypt’s most important revelations and artists.
Driven by the hope to achieve international recognition, Rafi however left Egypt at the peak of his career in June 1954. He remained abroad until his death, never returning, albeit for one month during the summer of 1964. Initially sent on a government scholarship to pursue doctorate studies in art history at the Sorbonne University in Paris, the then twenty-eight-year-old ambitious artist gambled when he decided to follow his dream of fame and to remain in Paris, leaving all behind and somehow getting lost along the way. But home in France did not seem fulfilling. In the summer of 1964, Rafi abandoned his career as a rising artist for a second time, ignored his thesis defense, and travelled to Algeria with a group of Algerian political freedom fighters. Rafi became a target and was imprisoned on suspicion of spying for the regime of Gamal Abdel Nasser. The sequence of events between Paris (1954-1964) and Alger (1964-1969), and back (1969-2004) turned into a long and painful tale. As someone who belonged neither in Egypt nor in France, his ability (or rather inability) to overcome obstacles became the subject of his work, which explains the more somber, enigmatic, highly sexual and darker side. As he reconciled different if not opposite aesthetic elements, Rafi eventually created a singular painting school that came to be defined as ‘Totalisme’ [Wholeness] or ‘Insaniya Shamla [Complete Humanism]. The ‘whole’ appears like “still” narratives with a mordant, or rather poignant wit, usually depicted in geometric and exaggeratedly executed brushstrokes. Animals played a significant role in the imaginary world of Samir Rafi. They are either entwined in the bodies of his subjects, or are their (sole) companion. What significance and meanings they carry offers a large space for interpretation. Along the way, Rafi’s themes became markedly more Egyptian, and a close alignment between his on- and off-canvas persona emerged, demonstrating a reclusive man torn between success and struggles, wealth and poverty, health and sickness, family and separation, fame and anonymity, freedom and prison, and eventually, loneliness and death.
Neither celebrated in his homeland, nor recognized as he had expected in Europe during his lifetime, Rafi’s legacy began to be revived when all his belongings in his two-bed room apartment in Paris were repatriated to Cairo following his death in 2004. Only then did Rafi begin to “taste” the appreciation he truly deserves in Egypt and the region, as well as in the so-coveted Western world.24 Sep - 05 Nov
Mariam Faried (1986) uses paper and a cutter to create highly intricate works, with needles, gold-leaf threads, silver strings and pins. She pierces, shreds, carves and slices meticulously the paper to create multi-layered embroidery, while playing with ink colours and textures. Her tool arsenal evokes fire outburst, transparency and other elements for paper cutting to […]12 Mar - 29 Mar
If you look at drawing, which is that silent poetry, you will find the truth marked for you. Sheikh Mohamed Abdou (March 18, 1904) As we reflect on the fifth anniversary of a defining moment in our history, Cairo-based surrealist painter Yasser Rostom sheds light on different aspects of the current geopolitical events. Featuring a […]19 Feb - 03 Mar
Born in Cairo in 1970 and raised in Yemen, Walid Ebeid graduated with a BFA from the Faculty of Fine Arts, Helwan University, in 1992. His work has been exhibited internationally since, earning him a reputation for his powerful expressive style. ArtTalks is proud to present People You May Know, the first solo exhibition of Walid EBEID at the Gallery. […]05 Feb - 28 Feb
Yasser Nabaiel was born in Kafr el Sheikh, Egypt, in 1970. He lives and works in Lausanne, Switzerland and holds a BFA (1994) with highest Honors. His graduation project tackled soldiers’ breaks during wars. Nabaiel also holds an MFA (1999) in oil Painting and Drawing from the Fine Arts University in Cairo. His thesis revolved […]15 Jan - 03 Feb
What do an apple, a loaf of bread and a bullet have in common? Mohamed Riad Saied: one of Egypt’s most distinguished late artists and certainly, Egypt’s surrealist painter by excellence during the second half of the twentieth century. Highly imaginative and classically inspired, Mohamed Saied Riad (1937 – 2008) is best known for striking […]02 Oct - 01 Nov
If you look at drawing, which is that silent poetry, you will find the truth marked for you. Sheikh Mohamed Abdou (March 18, 1904) As we reflect on the fifth anniversary of a defining moment in our history, Cairo-based surrealist painter Yasser Rostom sheds light on different aspects of the current geopolitical events. Featuring a […]27 Feb - 25 Mar
Sometimes we are forced to exile to heal and repress our wishes for the sake of tranquility but the rift imposed between a human being and a native place, between the self and the soul-mate is sadness and exile that only be surmounted with hope which is the drive to fight estrangement.30 Jan - 25 Feb
Mohsen Shalaan was born in Cairo on 14 April 1951, and received his BA in Art and Education in 1974. He held several positions at the Ministry of Culture, the last of which was his appointment in 2006 as Head of the Fine Arts Sector, a body responsible for several art institutions and museums, including […]28 Nov - 17 Dec
once in a long while, you stumble upon a treasure trove – a pile of stunning works on paper that you are afraid to touch, damage, or stain.
as you glance through the trove, drawing after drawing, all you see or better yet feel, is eternity, infinity, peace. you stop. go back. stare some more. you seek to understand.26 Sep - 25 Oct
ArtTalks is proud to present As Time Goes By / Wa Daret el Ayyam, the fourth solo exhibition by Guirguis Lotfy at the gallery.
Inspired by a song by the Nightingale of the Nile (aka Om Kolthoum), the exhibition is an homage to love, its beauties and pains. A passionate Egyptian patriot, Guirguis Lofty uses his canvas to pay tribute to the extraordinary feeling of giving. A prolific painter, he is able to evoke visual ‘tarab’ and raw emotions.25 Apr - 14 May
Discovering Ghaleb Khater:
in search of a forgotten painter chasing justice
“I have tried to depict the problems of our country, which faces the whole world, in the hope that finally for my country a solution would be found, and that people’s lives would therefore become more bearable and full of will.”05 Mar - 25 Mar
Mohamed Taman has begun and researched across a period of close to twenty years a process that he self-called Tamanism. Characterized by layers of colour materials which Taman forms and uses by hand, the unconventional process of Tamanism involves many petroleum derivatives and oil oxides and ultimately creates unique works based on unusual and singular chemical reactions. Using petroleum solvents to agitate […]17 Jan - 10 Feb
Today and after two years of trial and error to bring him over for a show, we present eL Seed to the Egyptian public and offer him our invitation as a token of appreciation. His Cairo show at our gallery builds around the noble Manshiyat Nasr project of Perception and will showcase a series of works on canvas and lithographs, inspired by his memorable experience with the people of Cairo and the kindness and generosity Egyptians are notoriously known for.07 Dec - 10 Jan
Mohamed Taman has begun and researched across a period of close to twenty years a process that he self-called Tamanism. Characterized by layers of colour materials which Taman forms and uses by hand, the unconventional process of Tamanism involves many petroleum derivatives and oil oxides and ultimately creates unique works based on unusual and singular chemical reactions. Using petroleum solvents to agitate […]01 Nov - 30 Nov
In ‘The Sweetest Haven’, 87-year old internationally acclaimed Adam Henein returns to painting with six new works produced in Harraniyya between 2015 and 2016. This time, however, he choses to explore the use of egg-based tempera, a painting technique found on early Egyptian sarcophagi decorations and many of the still existing Fayoum mummy portraits dating as far back as the 1st centuries AD.30 May - 16 Sep
ArtTalks is proud to present Alexandria-based visual artist Hady Boraey (1984) in his second solo exhibition at the gallery. After his highly acclaimed first solo Beyond Borders in 2014, Hady Boraey went on to complete his PhD and returns with Towards The Unknown.10 May - 29 May
ArtTalks is proud to present Renée, the third solo exhibition by Guirguis Lotfy at the gallery. In Renée, Guirguis honors his muse and lifetime companion. And when Guirguis is with Renée, nothing else matters.
It is not far fetched to draw the analogy that Guirguis Lotfy is to Egyptian visual arts what Salah Jahin (1930-1986) is to Egyptian poetry. Both celebrate Egypt’s cultural fabric while not shying away from its shortcomings. Tirelessly, Lotfy depicts our feasts, celebrations, rituals and traditions – some still practiced today; others long forgotten. Pharaonic, Islamic or Coptic, his stunning canvases offer a personal take on these little moments of bonding and shared history or on some trivial and mundane scenes with ordinary people.12 Apr - 06 May
Time goes by. And the years go past. And somehow and for some unknown reasons, we remain in love, infatuated by its sand, smitten by its sun, struck by its Nile, burdened by its glorious past, and bonded to its people. Sayed Saad el Din helps us understand, put some reasoning into this piercing feeling of attachment, of belonging to a land where kindness still exists hidden underneath the sand, where warmth wraps the mind and soul past a blazing sun, where harmony is concealed behind turmoil, and where hope prevails, though tomorrow is capricious.15 Mar - 09 Apr
As we reflect on the fifth anniversary of a defining moment in our history, Cairo-based surrealist painter Yasser Rostom sheds light on different aspects of the current geopolitical events. Featuring a new body of work in Doves and Crows, Rostom mixes literalism with symbolism to create layers of meanings and accentuate the ills afflicting the region as well as the hopes that could salvage the peoples.09 Feb - 01 Mar
After his highly acclaimed dual show with prominent Syrian artist Sabhan Adam in ‘Beauty and The Beast’ in 2014, Hossam Dirar comes with “Invitation Au Voyage”. A reference to Charles Baudelaire’s 1857 poem in Les Fleurs du Mal, Dirar seeks to create an imaginary world to liberate the mind and uses, symbolically and figuratively, a two-wheel ride, a very much en vogue transportation means in our busting city these days. The art of choosing an object, the bicycle, is to reveal a temporary world of freedom, an invitation to meet furthest away from politics, wars, injustices and violence, and to reach an unknown destination au-dela.08 Dec - 10 Jan
Maged Mekhail transports us back in time and space from Ancient Egypt to Babylon, and from Mesopotamia to further East. Rulers, traders, warriors, men of sciences and prophets crossed roads, ports and oceans seeking larger empires, flourishing trade and the spread of religion. Thousands of years later, their great grand-children are crossing the roads again – this time heading West, seeking refuge and escaping civil wars and violence. Crossing is no longer the means to enlarge one’s home, but rather the prevalent means of survival – to escape from home. In Many Rivers to Cross, painter and sculptor Maged Mekhail choses to ignore the slow decline of our present and brings to light our past by exploring the traces left behind the convergence of national, racial and ethical lines that supposedly should bond us together. He embraces the endless possibilities of remembrance and provides a multi-dimensional representation of the Egyptian world. The many different chapters across a span of thousands of years appear as fragments absorbed into Mikhail’s works, calling on a transcendent power to provide some meaning to guide our fragile present.12 Oct - 30 Nov
Silent agitators, Yasser Nabaiel and Weaam El Masry question the chains imposed by the (visible and invisible authorities) and the constant obligation for a seal of approval.05 May - 06 Jun
In the sculptural installations and wall objects of Egyptian-born, Vienna-based visual artist Hazem El Mestikawy, juxtaposition creates technically elaborate and thematically engaging works.10 Mar - 09 Apr
Born in 1978 in Cairo, Egypt, Riham Elsadany works and lives between Egypt and the USA. With a PhD from Helwan Fine Arts university on Performance Arts, Elsadany draws upon a diverse range of influences, including surrealism, Picasso’s childlike spontaneity, and Frida Kahlo’s transforming of pain and struggle into stunning canvasses. A mixed media artist, […]20 Jan - 03 Mar
Born in 1978, Mahmoud El Dewihi hails from the magical town of Aswan in Upper Egypt. Aswan is in fact one of the world’s most prominent ancient quarry landscapes in the world and El Dewihi sources part of his material from there – namely granite, echoing his predecessor Mahmoud Mokhtar, Egypt’s father of modern sculpture. […]11 Nov - 11 Jan
“Sometimes in some work I act like a channel, a channel to bring to life people’s screams.” Moataz Nasr is one of the most significant multi-media artists of his generation. He employs painting, sculpture, and photography, video and public art in order to create installations, which connect past and present, the spiritual and the worldly […]23 Sep - 04 Nov
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.20 May - 17 Jun
ArtTalks is pleased to announce the duo exhibition of Sabhan Adam | Hossam Dirar: Beauty and The Beast, their first exhibition at the Gallery. Syrian-born artist Sabhan Adam (1973) and Egyptian-born artist Hossam Dirar (1978) challenge universal notions of beauty and ugliness, through the art of portraiture. Each artist presents his perception of individuality by seeking to bring out whatever is common with the rest of humanity. For Sabhan Adam, it is ugly. For Hossam Dirar, it is beauty.02 Apr - 05 May
Born in Beheira in 1984, Hady Boraey lives and works in Alexandria, Egypt. He received a BFA (2005) and MFA (2011) and has recently earned his PhD (2015) from the Faculty of Fine Arts, the University of Alexandria, with highest honors. Boraey has participated in over forty group exhibitions in Egypt, Italy, the UK, Switzerland and […]11 Mar - 22 Mar
“My experiment gives me the feeling of individuality.” Sobhy Guirguis Born in 1929, SOBHY GUIRGUIS was a sculptor, painter, musician, and poet who lived and worked in Cairo until he passed away on 21 January 2013. Born into a family of musicians and influenced by his father who was a renowned naie player with Om […]18 Jan - 21 Feb
“I don’t find anything I make shocking. I am very comfortable with the human figure and I have used it in my work to deconstruct social taboos and complex social structures.” Nadine Hammam was born in 1973 in Cairo, Egypt and lives and works in Cairo. She received a BA English and Comparative Literature from […]10 Dec - 15 Jan
Born in 1978 in Cairo, Egypt, Riham Elsadany works and lives between Egypt and the USA. With a PhD from Helwan Fine Arts university on Performance Arts, Elsadany draws upon a diverse range of influences, including surrealism, Picasso’s childlike spontaneity, and Frida Kahlo’s transforming of pain and struggle into stunning canvasses. A mixed media artist, […]25 Sep - 22 Oct
Born in Beheira in 1984, Hady Boraey lives and works in Alexandria, Egypt. He received a BFA (2005) and MFA (2011) and has recently earned his PhD (2015) from the Faculty of Fine Arts, the University of Alexandria, with highest honors. Boraey has participated in over forty group exhibitions in Egypt, Italy, the UK, Switzerland and […]19 Jun - 26 Jun
Born in 1976, Weaam el Masry is an Egyptian Cairo-based multi-award winning visual artist. She holds a PH.D. in media art from the Faculty of Applied Arts, Helwan University. She is a painter who at times moves to photography, animation and installation. Her work has been exhibited at galleries, festivals, Biennales and museums locally and […]28 May - 13 Jun
Born in 1955, Guirguis Lotfy works and lives in Alexandria. He holds a BFA (1980), an MFA (1986) and a PhD (1991) with a thesis focused on “Coptic Art and Its Effect on Modern Art”. . Hamed Owais (1919-2011) and Hamed Nada (1924-1990), two of Egypt’s pivotal modern pioneer artists, were closely involved at different […]17 Apr - 08 May
Egyptian artist Mohamed Sharkawy will have his first solo exhibition in the region at ArtTalks gallery as part of our mission to act as a search engine for Egypt’s most promising talents. Born in Qena, Upper Egypt in 1982, Sharkawy was raised in Upper Egypt and then moved to Cairo and finally he currently lives […]14 Mar - 24 Mar
“My work has been irreversibly influenced by studying under prominent contemporary Egyptian artists such Adam Henein and the late Sobhy Guirguis”. Maged Mekhail Born in 1982, Maged Mekhail lives and works in Cairo. First of his class, Maged Mekhail studied under one of the top sculptors in modern Egyptian art history, Adam Henein, for […]13 Feb - 01 Mar
“Sometimes in some work I act like a channel, a channel to bring to life people’s screams.” Moataz Nasr is one of the most significant multi-media artists of his generation. He employs painting, sculpture, and photography, video and public art in order to create installations, which connect past and present, the spiritual and the worldly […]18 Dec - 15 Jan