Kristina Neave meets the extremely talented Futuristic Nostalgia group, led by Dr. Farghali Abdel-Hafez, set to restore art to its rightful place with a very special exhibition at the Zamalek Art Gallery...
“We are trying to improve the thoughts of the people to suit the current situation here in Egypt. How? By producing art that transfers not an emotion of depression and sadness, but a spirit of happiness and positivity.” As we walk through the Zamalek Art Gallery, passing a room filled with a plethora of visually engaging artworks which prove to be anything but elusive, and enter the quaint office in which the four artists of the The Futuristic Nostalgia Groupare gathered, it is this statement by prolific artist Dr. Farghali Abdel-Hafez that sets the tone for the rest of our incredibly captivating encounter.
Being the art enthusiasts that we are, it is with great confidence that we say that The Futuristic Nostalgia exhibition at the Zamalek Art Gallery, taking place from the 15th March to the 6th April, is a breath of fresh air as it floats a new theme into the current realm of art. Thanks to Egypt's rich history, our walls are often decorated with themes of heritage and tradition. A great wave of migration in the younger generations has led to themes of nostalgia for the past and with the political climate that has hung over the country for several years many a canvas has often been dominated by a sense of melancholy and longing. However, a new era of sentiment and artistic discourse has emerged with the birth of this new artistic group who are committed to redefining the message of art in today's society. Replacing associations of the past and feelings of wistfulness and sadness, this group of artists portray a futuristic nostalgia consisting of positive thinking, joyous sentiments and a powerful sense of hope for the country in an attempt to restore art to its rightful place.
We began our interview with what we suppose is the most obvious question; the source behind the inspiration. “We are trying to steer art away from its state of awkwardness and digitalis and back to its pure and original form.” The confusion of Dr. Farghali's answer left on our faces must have been noticed by artists Yasmine El-Hazek and Amina El-Demirdash, two of the younger members of the group. They smile nonetheless, and add: “Art that has not been corrupted has the power to affect the emotions of those appreciating it, Egyptian and non-Egyptians alike, and by going back to this natural state of art we wish to instil this optimism and positivity.” Dr. Farghali nods in agreement, continuing, “Insults do not constitute freedom of speech and freedom of belief, it is my liberty to do as I please and think what I want. It is this kind of freedom art in its purest form allows us to express and convey on to others. It plants a sense of contentment, security, strength, nobility and inner calm in the human soul.”
As the conversation continues, the topic as to why the past appears to be a theme many exhibitions and artists centre their work around arises. “I think this is because people can usually relate to the past; it was more open minded, there was more freedom,” Amina voices. However what becomes clear and fascinating to us is that although this group of artists focuses on what is to come, elements of what has been are acknowledged so as not to push aside heritage or culture. “You have to have your culture, of course. We all love Egypt and this is why we are focusing on the future in our art, because we want to build a more positive future,” she continues. “But without being cut from our past!” chimes in enigmatic artist Carelle Homsy. “Many people focus on the bad and the sadness of Egypt, instead of focusing on the good, and this is what we want to change. We have a lot of good things in our country we just need a boost in morale.”
It may seem strange to many to adopt such a theme at a time where many may feel disheartened with the current mood and climate of the country, however it is for this reason that this exhibition stands out so brightly. Having sat and integrated ourselves within the group, what struck us was the swan-like smoothness the range of characters and ages surrounding us integrated with each other. Nominated and put together by Dr. Farghali himself, if you haven't guessed already, what unites these artists is their common desire to promote a sense of positivity and optimism for the future through their art. However, keeping the exhibition diverse, similarity in style is absent from the group.“I think we all have our own unique styles. However when I reflect on the time we have spent working together, exchanging ideas, it is clear that we have all learnt a lot from each other,” Carelle tells us. “When you look at my previous paintings you will notice my pallet includes a lot of blue whereas now I have adopted the use of brighter colours”.
A few minutes with these gifted artists and a glance at their work will have you hoping for future collaborations, and it is with excitement that we can announce that this is on the horizon. Carelle tells us, “I love to work with this group. We are two different generations however I have adopted this new fresh spirit from the younger members, Amina and Yasmine. Something has changed in my work thanks to them and Dr. Farghali.”
“I feel exactly the same way,” adds Amina. “Yasmine is very spiritual and I love that about her and with Carelle, where I thought the age difference would cause generational differences, it has been the complete opposite. It also goes without saying that Dr. Farghali has been a great mentor.”
We had the great pleasure of being guided through the gallery space by the artists themselves and it is clear that this morale-boosting group have been very meticulous in their paintings. Whether an art purist, an art fanatic or simply an appreciator of aesthetics, when an exhibition with this kind of zeal for the future featuring works by artists with such high calibre comes calling, there really is no reason not to go. A catalogue of the promise that Egypt holds, Futuristic Nostalgia at the Zamalek Art Gallery is this season's one-stop exhibition providing a startling reassessment of the country's future.
Find out more about Zamalek Art Gallery and the exhibition here.