Currently at Zamalek Art Gallery’s Venue II (it’s their new gallery space- if you haven’t seen it yet then you should) is an exhibit titled “The Cycle” by Kamal El Feky. One of the things I love about the Zamalek Art Gallery is how they like to represent young artists, without their young age being the main criteria behind their choice. Many galleries try to support younger artists by just exhibiting their work, but this gallery guides and supports their process first, before exhibiting their work. The result is always a complete and tight exhibit- with each piece looking like a member of one close yet diverse family.
“The Cycle” is a lovely show, with sculptures that are both loveable as they are brooding. Every character looks exhausted, with heavy shoulders, bowing heads and bulky feet. Despite their larger and somewhat inelegant physiques, some of El Feky’s characters balance like ballerinas on bicycles, or carry their children on shoulders like gymnasts, or my favourite of all, look up to the heavens with the passion of an opera singer. Beautiful, yet tired, all these sculptures seem to be weighed down by a life wasted running in a hamster wheel, trying to keep up with each other and everyone else, & failing to break the mould. They’ve settled, but they’re trying to make it still. There’s an overwhelming weight in the works, enhanced further by the sheer size & weight of the bronze in of some the pieces.
I have a few favourites in this show- which is a big thing since I’m terribly picky- but the one that won by far was of the largest works exhibited. A lower half of a body stands amputated, waist up. On that large disc where an abdomen should begin, sits a tiny little figure on the edge, slumped, worried and exhausted. My first thought was “وسطه إتأطم” which is a colloquial Egyptian term literally meaning “His waist is broken” and which metaphorically lends to someone who has broken his back in working or doing his best, more often than not to no avail. The visual translation of this was so strong- it was scarring as it was powerful, like listening to a melancholy song sung by a beautiful voice. It was both original, relevant, gorgeous and sad, as the entire exhibit was.