Artist Statement - Ode to Mukhtar
When I first visited Mahmoud Mukhtar’s oeuvre in November of 2003, what I discovered was a collection of work that truly spoke to me on many levels.
As an artist, I was fascinated by Mukhtar’s ability to remain faithful to classical rules of balanced composition, yet belong to the contemporary by simplifying the complicated into a few essential planes.
As an Egyptian, I was inspired by his capacity to convey messages of nationalist fervor and pride during pivotal times in our nation’s history. But what struck me most was the very ‘Egyptianess’ of most of his work; from the facial features of his portraits to the deliberate appropriation of Ancient Egyptian art, Mukhtar’s creations could not have belonged anywhere else but here. Amazingly, this ‘Egyptianess’ went beyond the tangible; it was like a subconscious manifestation of an inherited trait that, having evolved over millennia, just couldn’t be suppressed.
And finally, as a woman, I was most impressed by Mukhtar’s insight and sensitivity, especially in his work depicting women. In contrast to the predominantly lopsided artistic portrayal of women over the centuries as objects of beauty and not much else, Mukhtar was able to subtly convey the multifaceted essence of womanhood. Whether he depicted women at rest, at work or in different emotional states, they were not only beautiful, but also moving. With their fluid and strong lines, these women were whole, solid, harmonious, timeless, proud and extremely powerful.
Thus inspired, I endeavored to study Mukhtar’s work, especially his female subjects, and like many artists who wish to grow and learn, I did so by re-visiting, re-interpreting and re-inventing that which has come before me. As a painter, not a sculptor, I knew that my own sensibilities would manifest themselves in different ways, offering an alternate personal perspective.
The result, I believe, is a collection of drawings and paintings that although pays tribute to Mukhtar, also takes on a personality of its own. I think that although Mukhtar’s spirit is very much alive in my works, my women have emerged as individuals, and not just symbols of Egypt (as Mukhtar often depicted). These new women are just a little more bold, perhaps some even slightly irreverent, and although we’ll never know if Mukhtar would approve, I’m hoping that he would have.
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