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Khan al-Maghrabi Exhibition

In his recent exhibition in Khan al-Maghrabi in Cairo, Ihab Shaker comes up with a new vision, one mixing modern "form" with its structural composition and techniques with a "content" fraught with meaning and intimations.
The harmonious intimacy he creats permeates his work, like a timid yet tantalizing tune that combines profound intensity with slow-paced tranquility. All of his paintings exude a sense of contradiction. Shapes resolve into aggressive straight lines only to contort without notice, then retreat, before emerging again to curve and undulate, to prance about with sweet suppleness.
The images Ihab creates bend, bow, entwine, and intersect in whimsical rebellion. His manner of painting is anything but straight-out pictorial. It is an "artistic action" that parallels, even rivals music. Ihab's methods transcend the barrenness of convention.
He is perhaps more inspired by the audible than the visual, attempting to turn melodies into their visible equivalence. He uses the media of painting to accomplish what musical tunes achieve, but stops short from absolute abstraction. He manipulates shape and color, but in a restrained manner.
He experiments with chaos, but refuses to ditch completely the laws of motion. Ihab tackles his subject as if music and the musicians are a continuum.
The musicians remain ever present, but they morph into an endless number of triangular and circular shapes, superimposed and overlapping, crisscrossing in noisy proximity, or disengaging with quiet dignity, their mood tallying with the acoustics enveloping them, their physical arrangement mirroring that of the pieces they perform.
As the violin lets out elegant, thin, stretchable sounds, defiant in hues of yellow and red, the cello speaks out in deeper tones, giving substance to the structure.
And when the local drum, tabla, issues its manly, husky beat, a balanced rhythm is achieved, equality between light and darkness is attained. Suddenly, a happy and intermittent sound comes along, bouncing in the levity of the harp-like canoon.
This creates a zigzag of action, encouraging bodies and arms to twist and twirl in pure enchantment. Ihab strips shapes of their form and turns them into a harmonious music.
Or perhaps he distills the sounds we hear, harnessing them into visual impressions. What helps him in producing this exquisite art are his tremendous skills that enable him to harness the imaginary at will. Ihab's is a first class act, one of masterful technique, aesthetic perception, and exceptional vision. He blends all of the above to create visions to offer us controlled chaos and endless playfulness.

By Dr. Farouk Basyouni
© Copy Rights 2003