CAIRO—Ali Hassaan’s exhibition “Safe Haven”, at Cairo’s Liwan Gallery, shows a young woman living between dreams and reality.
Visitors might think the scenes in the paintings are the product of the artist’s imagination. In fact, the paintings tell the story of a female fine arts student from Upper Egypt, who told the art professor of living between dreams and reality.
Hassaan, 46, a professor in the Faculty of Fine Arts at Luxor University, believed the daydreams to be the young woman’s “safe haven” and used this idea as the theme of a series of paintings.
The exhibition, which continues until December 9, is about the young woman’s inability to make even simple dreams come true. She has the same daydreams for years, but cannot make them come true.
Hassaan noticed a connection between the young woman’s dreams and the fish she keeps, which became a theme of the exhibition.
In the “Motorcycle” painting, a parrot sits symbolically on the young woman’s shoulder. “It is as if the bird had become the girl’s partner in her dream of flying temporarily, even if only on a motorcycle.”Ali Hassaan
He uses the young woman’s words in the exhibition: “I wake up screaming. I see bright spots scattered across the floor of the room. They are the scales of my dead fish. My colourful fish, just like me, reject the enclosed glass bowl where they live, and have leapt out of it. They, like me, dream of breathing air in another way, even if they do so for the last time in their lives. Our dreams end up together on the edge of that glass aquarium where we live. We no longer have a safe haven.”
‘Safe Havens’ Invaded
In his work Hassaan sought to capture “the fantasy and wild imaginings of dreams” and to express the feeling of escape that the daydreams give the young woman.
To achieve that he draws her in most of the paintings surrounded by things that represent her “safe havens”, such as pet cats, hens, and fish. This domestic world, however, is often invaded by “gripping images” of fiercer creatures, like hyenas and predatory birds.
Gallery: Paintings from ‘Safe Haven’
One of the most prominent works on display is a painting inspired by a dream that the young woman would wear her grandmother’s white wedding dress on her wedding day. “Despite the innocence of the dream,” Hassaan said, “she cannot forget a nightmare she had one day of being surrounded by predators the moment she puts on the dress—as if dream and nightmare were two sides of the same coin.”
“I thought of a way to present the symbols the girl spoke of by adding other fantasies as if they were an extension of her dreams.”
In the “Motorcycle” painting, a parrot sits symbolically on the young woman’s shoulder. “It is as if the bird had become the girl’s partner in her dream of flying temporarily, even if only on a motorcycle—a dream her brother used to object to.”
‘One Minute Art’ Videos
There are about 40 paintings in the exhibition. The artist used raw oil colours for richness, as well as bright, spontaneous colours to convey the woman’s dream world.
“I thought of a way to present the symbols the girl spoke of by adding other fantasies as if they were an extension of her dreams.”Ali Hassaan
Hassaan said he had been preoccupied for years with how to adapt artistic material to achieve the best possible result.
This gave him the idea of a “One Minute Art” show presented in episodes on social media. “It was to be a short educational programme to deliver an intense burst of information for those interested in the technical aspect of producing art, in various styles and with whatever colours they use. I tried to be brief since the largest section of my audience are art college students.”
Hassaan explained: “The technical aspect is what keeps paintings alive longer, so they can be shared across generations.”
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“The originality of traditional crafts from ancient Egyptian art up to our time is about the quality of techniques and work materials,” he added.
“No matter how wonderful the painting is, it will soon be threatened with rapid damage, if its creator uses poor materials, or the wrong colour mixes. It thus loses its eternal value and continuity, two essential qualities of any original artwork.”
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