Articulate Baboon opened its latest show in its Designopolis gallery space entitled “30 Hosnis” by Ali Ali, a new emerging artist.
Ali is the man who created the Egyptian Panda brand cheese advertisements in 2010 that were wildly successful for their hilarity. The videos of the ad went viral, becoming a Youtube sensation and the most watched video in November 2010.
With that same manner of tongue in cheek, he presents his first art show, a series of 30 silk screen prints to represent each year the former president was in power. Shocking for no reason other than the seeming glorification of the image of a man who isn’t too popular at the moment.
“There’s something very cool about putting [his images] all back up at a time when everyone is pulling them all down,” explains Ali.
“It’s quite nice. If not for this show, I don’t think we’ll see images of Hosni anywhere. Even now in the paper they try to not put his picture because it offends people. I think we’re being unfair to the image, definitely fair to the man but not to the image. You can’t just let go of an image that’s been part of your life for 30 years: suddenly it’s gone. You need to reach closure. Even when he resigned he didn’t [announce] it, it was a sudden break up, [so this is] one last look at the man.”
That sentiment is understandable, expressed by many Egyptians who have known no other president for the entirety of their lives thus far.
“I don’t want anyone else to think that it’s another revolution exhibit, this is a subject that I’ve always wanted to do, and I think the image is very relevant now.
“I had the idea for it a very long time but the time was never right to do it.
I’m sure if we had done the show before January 25 the gallerists and myself would have been arrested. I had spoken to various galleries about it and they [refused]. I’ve been obsessed with that image for a while. It’s beautiful.”
Despite doubts some may have, the series has much to offer viewers and visitors. Ali has used three separate images of the former president as the basis of his prints, selected after trawling through thousands in Al-Ahram newspaper’s archives.
The prints are very interesting. When viewed collectively it is slightly overwhelming and whatever sense of unease one might have felt previously when starting at the man’s image is now gone.
Perhaps it might assuage viewers that Ali has not only printed solitary images of Mubarak, but he has also made prints of the man as a king in a deck of cards with a sword in hand, in addition to other prints with the repeated motif of Darth Vader, Mickey Mouse or Pac Man. The result is comic, but Ali’s intentions were perhaps to deliver his message with that very same humor that made the Panda ads so popular.
“I wouldn’t have villainized him at all in the pictures such as say the print with Darth Vader, but I feel the irony is too subtle for an Egyptian audience. Without the desecration of the image I think the show might be understood as a tribute to the man, that’s why I did one of him as part of a deck of cards holding the sword.
“The sarcasm would be obvious if I had a gun pointing to his head, and perhaps be more successful but I wish that people would appreciate the [subtle] sarcasm of these paintings. I don’t know if they’ll come across.”
The prints have interesting details. By having so many prints of the same subject with slight variations of color and theme side by side, they lend themselves to being seen even more clearly.
One image of Mubarak is that of him wearing sunglasses which reflect a military parade, the streaks in color from print to print are due to arbitrary technicalities of each individual layer of the silk screening process, and the final outcome of some prints are very faint, so symbolic of a man whose presence and power is also fading.
The prints are not original yet novel. Ali’s background in advertising after having studied art at the San Francisco Art Institute channels the same spirit of graphic arts and print work such as that of Warhol, an artist and an advertising maverick.
The novelty of “30 Hosnis” is the manipulation of the image of a man who was seemingly omnipresent, constantly peering out at them from behind an official gold frame in public offices and spaces. Yet now, the images are more humanistic and truthful, the man has been reduced to nothing but a flat reflection composed of nothing but color and ink.
Ali’s choices of color too are novel. A fuschia-based red paper, matte blues and green paints. It is pop art without the glaring brightness of primary colors and black outlines. It is color that one has never associated with the man, and it is the unconventional color pairings that help one to regard the image with new perspective.
“I think it’s nice to remember him for what he was, a horrible man, but I think it’s important to try and remember him. To completely erase it, it means no one will learn from the mistakes. People need to come to terms with how bad he was and for him to not be a taboo.
“I’m simply trying to force people to separate imagery from content. You could like the painting, colors, textures and lines but hate the man. I’m really curious to see who’s going to buy the paintings because who would want to hang Hosni Mubarak in their homes? I honestly think no one will buy any, which is ok. I’ll then have them all to myself.”
“30 Hosnis” is running at Articulate Baboon in Designopolis:
KM 38 Cairo/Alex Desert Road
Sheikh Zayed City
Telephone: +2 0101223366
Articulate Baboon will be open for private appointments only during the coming week. Email [email protected] to book an appointment. The gallery will then resume regular hours.