Born in 1960 in the Egyptian town of Tanta, Mohamed Abouelnaga graduated with honours from the Faculty of Fine Arts in Alexandria. He went on to earn a Masters Degree in Fine Art and a PhD in the Philosophy of Art from Alexandria University. He is the first Middle Eastern artist to have received a grant from the Japan Foundation to study the art of paper making in Japan. Abouelnaga`s works have been showcased in many international exhibitions. In 2002, he represented Egypt at the Venice Biennale and in 2001, he won the first prize of the Alexandria Biennale. He is the founder of the Elnafeza - Foundation for Contemporary Art & Development.
When the people of Egypt went onto the streets to demonstrate and were ready to give up their lives in the fight for freedom, they decorated the trees in Tahrir Square with papers upon which they wrote their wishes, hopes, demands and complaints. This impressive collective act is recreated in Mohamed Abouelnaga's 'Four Trees in Tahrir Square'. For Abouelnaga the tree represents the relationship of Egyptians with their homeland: rooted in the country's ancient culture and religious heritage, the collective consciousness strives for freedom.
'Tree in Tahrir Square, from CAIRO 11 series' by Mohamed Abouelnaga / 2012, photograph, 150x150 cm (1) / Courtesy of AB Gallery
'Tree in Tahrir Square, from CAIRO 11 series' by Mohamed Abouelnaga / 2012, photograph, 150x150 cm (2) / Courtesy of AB Gallery
'Tree in Tahrir Square, from CAIRO 11 series' by Mohamed Abouelnaga / 2012, photograph, 150x150 cm (3) / Courtesy of AB Gallery
Ahmed Badry (b.1979, Cairo) graduated in 2003 from Helwan University's Faculty of Art Education in Cairo where he continues to live and work. In the last three years, Badry has been awarded several art residencies including six months at the Cité des Arts in Paris, three months at the Swiss Art Residency of Canton St.Gallen in Rome and two months at the Delfina Foundation in London. Badry‘s solo exhibitions include 'Made in China' with Anastasia Katsidis at Kasko-Basel in 2009, and a show at 'Al Qahira' Atelier in Cairo in 2007.
In contrast, Ahmed Badry explores not great gestures but issues of daily life, which perhaps appear insignificant at first sight. By blowing up the scale of objects or by placing exact replicas made in cardboard on a pedestal, the artist draws attention to small but very particular details, which characterize his society. He shows the creative solutions people from poorer countries devise to handle everyday life, like the piece 'Iron' showing an iron used as a pizza heater or 'Clock' consisting of a clock face written on the wall. With humour and irony, he also shows the existing misconstructions in which objects have lost their actual purpose, like the exposed power line next to a light switch in 'Plug'.
'Clock' by Ahmed Badry / 2012, photograph on aluminium, 30x40 cm / Courtesy of AB Gallery
'Iron' by Ahmed Badry / 2012, photograph on aluminium, 30x40 cm / Courtesy of AB Gallery
'Light Bulb' by Ahmed Badry / 2012, photograph on aluminium, 30x40 cm / Courtesy of AB Gallery
'Plug' by Ahmed Badry / 2012, mixed media, painted cardboard, 8x14x3 / Courtesy of AB Gallery
'Scissors' by Ahmed Badry / 2012, mixed media, painted cardboard, 20x6x2 cm / Courtesy of AB Gallery
Hazem El Mestikawy
Hazem El Mestikawy (*1965) was recently short-listed for the Victoria and Albert Museum's prestigious Jameel Prize and received the Grand Prize of the 13th Asia Art Biennial in Dhaka. He has taken part in exhibitions in Qatar, Austria, Japan, Cuba, and Egypt. El Mestikawy holds a Bachelors in art and education and sculpture and design from Menya University. Currently, he lives in Cairo, Egypt, and Vienna, Austria.
Hazem El Mestikawy's art made in an unmistakable technique using recycled paper, are based on the principle of duality and oscillate between the positive and the negative, lightness and heaviness, and light and shadow. This ambiguity underpins both the work's materiality and content. His works are not statements but rather open-ended questions relating to current topics and issues of identity: Did Egypt go forward or backward after the fall of Mubarak '(11.02.2011', 'White Cairo')? How constant or rather how transitory is freedom ('Alhoriya Panel 2', 'Vienna')? Is Egyptian identity defined more by Arabic or Egyptian heritage?
'Alhoriya Panel 2' by Hazem El Mestikawy / Vienna 2012, cardboard and paper, 103x48x5 cm / Courtesy of AB Gallery
'11.02.2012 - White Cairo' by Hazem El Mestikawy / Cairo 2012, cardboard an paper, 40x40x10,5 cm / Courtesy of AB Gallery
'Alif Beh' by Hazem El Mestikawy / 2006-2009, cardboard and paper, 60 parts, installation, 200x145x175 cm / Courtesy of AB Gallery
Khaled Hafez is a multi-media visual artist who was born in 1963 in Cairo where he presently resides and works. Hafez’s practice encompasses painting, installation, photography and video. His work has been shown at the Saatchi Gallery and the Tate Modern in London, the MuHKA Museum of Art in Antwerp, the Kunstmuseum in Bonn, the State Museum of Modern Art in Thessaloniki and the Centre George Pompidou in Paris.
While Hazem El Mestikawy's formal language is geometrical and sober, Khaled Hafez's works are characterized by a colourful expressive style. It is not duality which informs Hafez's work but the melding of seemingly incompatible things. For example, ancient Egyptian divinities are paired up with modern western icons. The artist often references comic heroes or fashion magazine beauties in his work. In a playful way, he removes the gap between the old and new worlds, between East and West and between high and popular culture, creating a mirror of society that he views in a state of metamorphosis and constant flux.
'multiple stockholm stars' by Khaled Hafez / 2012, acrylic on canvas / Courtesy of AB Gallery
'stockholm sniper' by Khaled Hafez / 2012, acrylic on canvas180x120cm / Courtesy of AB Gallery