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Ihab is a name that will be remembered often in our artistic life. I am referring to the known cartoonist, Ihab Shaker, who was always, as far as I am concerned, much more than a cartoonist.
He draws, even the simplest cartoons, with exquisite care, as if creating a masterpiece. His real passion is painting, and we always encouraged him to pursue this passion. But he was never interested in exhibiting his work.
This is why it was a surprise when he decided, decades after he graduated from the College of Fine Arts, to hold his stunning first exhibition at the Akhenaton's Hall of the Arts Complex in Zamalek.
I write about the exhibition lamely, for it has ended two days ago, but the state of my health prevented me from attending exhibitions as regularly as I am used to.
Despite the lapse, I have to say that this was the most beautiful and impressive exhibition by any painter I ever saw over the past few decades. It is not that Ihab was a lazy artist. He drew cartoons, designed book covers, illustrated children books, and produced animated pictures for children.
He exhibited in Paris, Barcelona, and elsewhere. He would go on leave to live in France for years, to study a new art, such a film animation. This exhibition, however, proves that his forays into distant lands did not sever his connection with his mainland, that of painting.
He found his way back home with this "first" exhibition, with paintings evocative of the forcefulness and enthusiasm of youth. I believe he is the only Egyptian artist who had his "first" exhibition after the age of fifty. This alone tells volumes of his amazing dedication and unmatched perfectionism. Interestingly, his exhibition was devoid of affectation. It was a strange mix of simplicity and freedom of the usual lexicon of painting and abstraction, of folklore and modernism.
The colors are powerful, daring, yet tender. His is a totally new path among the contortions of artistic expression. Over 80 works by one artist in a sublime exhibition, all created with arduous detail, yet the feel they convey is one of simple spontaneity, whether the subject matter was dervishes, animals, humans, or abstract meaning. His paintings are emotional, romantic, modern, extremely rich in color, and hard to categorize.
His spontaneity transcends the boundaries of most conventional schools. His paintings would bring worth to any museum collection, and pleasure to private homes. Congratulations to this new giant, a man of immense vision and innovation. Ihab has added enrichment to our artistic lives and brought our aesthetic standards up a further notch.

By Ahmad Bahaaeddin
Al-Ahram, 18 March 1988
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