I’ve been pretty much swamped with work lately, so I haven’t been covering as many artists and shows as I should have been. My sincere apologies for that. However, I always lay low and come back to you with a few gems, so sometimes it’s worth the absence. This time, it’s artist Ali Abdel Mohsen.
I’ve been a big fan of Ali’s work, and have given him a rave review, since his last solo show “Razor Sharp Teeth” at Mashrabya Gallery, in February 2012. This year, his latest show titled “This is a dream come true” was equally excellent. Very few young artists in Egypt show genuine development and maturity from one show to another, and Ali is one of these.
This group of work is a reflective view on the past two years in Egypt, and the juxtaposition between the title of the show and it’s contents is enough for a seriously scathing commentary on said period. The feel of Ali’s work is post apocalyptic, like what one would witness after the world has been hit by a devastating nuclear bomb. What’s interesting, however, is that there is no bomb, and the destruction seen in his work is purely our very own handiwork. In some of his panels, you can see a clear deterioration of what looked like the promise of a successful modern society, into rubble. The description as such does not do the work justice; Ali’s use of line is sophisticated and intricate, despite his subject matter being fairly simplistic creatures and buildings. His level of detail is astounding, leaving one in awe of both his patience, and stillness of hand.
A new addition to his compositions are these geometric intrusions, like the industrial skeletons of some advanced machinery gone wrong. The fact that he drew, in free hand, these impossibly straight lines is painfully impressive. Their inclusion at all in the these explosive compositions adds a level of abstraction that brings the entire body of work up a few a notches, grounding it confidence and maturity that was only just budding in his previous show.
A personal favourite is the title piece “This is a dream come true”; an ink on cardboard piece that is systematically chaotic. From afar, it looks like heiroglyphs on one side and a genocide aftermath on the other. It’s solemnity is surprising despite its shocking content. It’s decidedly impressionist in how it keeps giving you more with every step forward: details materialise as you move into its depths, as does the horror of what you see. Each and every little icon Ali creates here is a scene- of torture, sex (or rape), loss, protest, prayer or death- all of which are disturbing. The way with which he draws each one is exquisite; faceless figures beautifully sculpted to portray a level of angst quite scarring to see in such reduced lines.
Ali’s signature support is cardboard- he works on what appear to be ripped open cardboard boxes, using, as is written on the labels, “acrylics, ink & cigarette ashes” (the latter medium is of particular interest to me, because he can also add “blood, sweat & tears” and it’ll fit just fine into this work theme). He is truly an original artist whose work is rather unlike anything I’ve seen in the recent years.
Unfortunately, his work is not currently on show at Mashrabiya Gallery, but you can see it all here on his website: http://cinemacosmos.tumblr.com