To celebrate the 85th birthday of George Bahgoury, Picasso East art gallery held a commemorative exhibition of his works
George Bahgoury is a contemporary Egyptian artist who gained worldwide fame for art of exceptional quality. But for me, Bahgoury is not only an artist of international stature; he is a friend I highly cherish. News of a commemorative exhibition to celebrate his 85th birthday aroused in me great interest and fond nostalgia. The month-long exhibition was hosted by the gallery Picasso East in the east Cairo satellite town of al-Qahira al-Gadeeda (New Cairo), and closed on the last day of February.
Opening day saw Bahgoury signing copies of his book Bahgoury: an Egyptian Icon, a collection of 300 of the artist’s most famous paintings, portraits, and sculptures throughout various phases in his career. Their topics centred on the Egyptian street, the tannoura Sufi dance, horses, and portraits among which many depicted the illustrious Egyptian diva Umm Kulthoum (1904 – 1975), who was a great inspiration for Bahgoury.
What distinguishes Bahgoury’s art is that it translates his sentiments and views in a way easily understood by any viewer and, more important, impossible to forget. Because his world is pertinent to people’s emotions, and because of his energised commitment to issues of the community, he is widely respected and appreciated in Egypt and worldwide.
The paintings displayed at the recent exhibition were inspired by the Egyptian environment and heritage, with Bahgoury using his famous intertwined lines in colourful formations to create oriental hymns.
Bahgoury’s art reflects human life, tragedy and anguish. His prolific cartoons, sketches and sculptures display a profound knowledge of the secrets of his Egyptian heritage, be it Pharaonic, Coptic or Islamic. His paintings are contemporary, yet preserve the particular spirit of Egyptian art. They reflect the social, religious, folkloric and cultural intricacies of ordinary Egyptians, often in a rural setting: people in cafés and alleyways, loaves of bread, faces of the people. Through his colour-tones and by adding delicate touches to the painted eyes, Bahgoury is able to append a sense of oldness to his contemporary paintings. Some faces in his portraits depict sleepy unhappy eyes, or wide eager eyes in outbursts of vivid colour. In other paintings, he uses dark-toned colours, mostly brown and earthy tones infiltrated with white. Some faces show pride and dignity; others reflect sympathy, love peace, and glimpses of hope for a promising life.
Bahgoury has painted portraits of the most famous Egyptian and international artists. He paints with passionate brush strokes; his artworks are a reflection of an impassioned, warm-hearted soul.
Bahgoury has roamed since early childhood, from Bahgoura, his birthplace in Luxor, Upper Egypt, to Cairo and thence to Paris where he lived for many years. He now lives in Egypt, where his heart beats to an Egyptian tune, but he returns to Paris time and again to experience and enjoy the world of modern art. His sketchbook always accompanies him wherever he goes; from Cairo to Paris, Germany, Italy, Jordan, Tunisia or elsewhere.
The Picasso East Gallery hosted schoolchildren on trips to visit the Bahgoury exhibition. After a tour of the gallery, the students would spend the rest of the day in the garden outside where they painted their impressions. Some tried, with various degrees of success, to imitate Bahgoury’s style.
As a fellow artist and friend, I sincerely wish Bahgoury a happy new year in his rich life, and congratulate him on the resounding success of the recent exhibition. I hope he spends many more years ahead living as he always did for art, beauty, and joy.
8 March 2017