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Ihab Shaker: Zorba the Egyptian

His last exhibition, mid-March to mid-April, was a continuation of his last year's exhibition, a juxtaposition of contradictions, illustrating the contrast between local themes and modern approach, between childlike spontaneity and reasoned control, between realistic vision and surrealistic whims, between authentic embodiment and convoluted simplification bordering on the abstract, between mocking exaggeration and contemplative perception.
The curious thing is that Ihab Shaker weaves through his drawings with the sharp end of colored pens, a process requiring time and patience only the hopelessly devoted can summon. The work is sometimes evocative of the needlework of the tent makers. Like conjurors' tricks, his work sends you onto a path of exploration, where you feel impelled to trace the course of his pen, the stitches of his invisible needle.
You can actually draw parallels between Ihab's work and much of the ancient handicraft, although Shaker is forever a master of individuality and innovation.
Despite the fact that Ihab's genius draws heavily upon his technical skills, which he has hewn to such a delicacy that color and texture merge, as if in a blurry horizon, his world owns a mysterious mythical dimension, a sensual lust for life.
Let's call this Zorbian existentialism, a doctrine by which man must live in the moment and take his fill of it, a state where questions should be trimmed down, so that eternity may seep into our diminished lives.
He sings and dances, plays and takes risks, loves and soars in enchantment, but remains Egyptian in heart and soul. Shaker uses simple lines, wavy strands, and colored slides, combining them to create an integral structure that is hard to disentangle or leave, once you set your foot on its trail. His is a journey into the world of oral mythology, stripped from words, but alive with numerous intimations.

By Izz al-Din Naguib, art critic
Al-Hilal, June 2002
© Copy Rights 2003