Katherine Bakhoum’s is currently showing her 13th show, titled “Magic of the Orient” at Safar Khan Gallery in Zamalek. I have a hot and cold relationship with the works of Bakhoum; Sometimes I love them, other times, I’m not quite taken by the exhibition at all. This show embodies this feeling, because most of the pieces I quite like, but the exhibition in its entirety is not at all exciting.
Now here’s where I’ll contradict myself: I love some of the pieces in this exhibit. The paintings tread a thin line between a nostalgia for Orientalism and a fantastical hope for what we should aspire to be. You’re not quite sure whether this is the past or the future and that gives the entire exhibit a rather hopeful feel. Most of them are central compositions- some presenting a male dervish or a female dancer, others are of young girls or seated dervishes. Technically, the paintings are good- Katherine Bakhoum is a seasoned artist who’s technique is solid and shows a clear understanding of light and colour.
The compositions of the works however, is where the exhibit throws me off a little. Most of the pieces are central compositions, best seen in doubles. Instantly I imagine the works in a room, which is both good and a bad thing: Good, because it means I can see these paintings breathe life into a home, bad, because the works instantly translated into interior design elements and ornamentation, rather than beings in their own right.
I believe that the show is most definitely worth seeing- it closes on May 15th so hurry- but I’d walk in without too much of critical eye. Instead, look at the work for what it is: pretty paintings with an inspiring palette that helps wash out Cairo’s dust, if only for a short while.