Study in static dynamism

Daily News Egypt
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Shayma Aziz exhibits her collection of stills that encapsulate movement

CAIRO: Shayma Aziz’s Contrast in Still Motion is a striking exhibition using rust or black and white dyes to highlight a sequence of still figures fashioned from charcoal.

The Falaki Gallery her work is exhibited in could more accurately be described as simply a hallway deep in the belly of the American University in Cairo s Falaki campus; the exhibit’s organization and location makes it poorly located and arranged. Aziz’s pieces are not behind glass or framed – they are glued, completely unprotected, to the walls in between office doors along the hall. The only aesthetic alteration is the lighting and the perhaps unintentional crumpling of the canvases by the rubber cement sticking them to the wall.

Despite the atmosphere of the exhibit, Aziz’s exhibition is a worthwhile detour within the mess of offices and hallways.

The artist herself defends the way her pieces are mounted. This way, she says, her paintings look free and “loose. In a departure from the her usual attention to the human face and the greater sense of intimacy elicited by her former collections, Aziz instead draws the viewer’s attention to an assortment of eerie, elongated bodies stenciled in charcoal. The result is a very raw looking technique that experiments with still figures and the movement occurring either around or within them. The rust colored dyes splashed around some figures create tempestuous storms of hazy color that dramatically express a sense of desolate isolation. In contrast, her figures with black and white dyes contain a flurry of intense struggle confined to the lines of the bodies. Together, the two parts of her collection capture the tension created by these technical elements of artistry. But Aziz’s work is not solely an exercise in the more physical aspects of her art. She says this collection also portrays her frustration with society around her; referring this claim specifically to the art world in Egypt.

Aziz remarks, “There’s no movement; something is missing since the Academy lost its freedom. Society has changed since the 70s and the Islamic movement. She cited examples such as the cancellation of nude studies, and explains the difficulties she went through to find such instruction outside of school. “Society is one track minded; it’s very dangerous. Aziz hopes to combat what she sees as a lack of passion and experimentation in the art world here. She claims that the simplicity of her tools lends freshness to her work, which this reviewer would tend to agree with. Aziz’s small, starkly contrasting palate of colors, agitated by traces of charcoal hidden beneath, express an anxiety in her faceless figures need no explanation from the artist. Disregarding the surroundings, this collection is worth a look. At least one good thing about them is that you’ll probably be alone, which is the best way to indulge in Aziz’s exhibit.

Contrast in Still Motion is open from 12- 9 pm Saturday-Thursday, and is running until July 20.

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