Monday, September 1, 2008

Bassem Yousri - Knapp Gallery

The Knapp Gallery

Bassem Yousri (second year painter)
September 5th – October 31th
First Friday Opening September 5th, 6-9pm
162 N 3rd St.
Philadelphia, PA 19106

tel: 267-445-0279 fax: 267-455-0279
thurs-sat 11-6, sun 12-5
wednesday by appoinment only.

Egyptian icons (from knapp gallery's website)

While Ancient Egyptian art was, in fact, a ritual towards the passage from death to eternity in the afterlife; Bassem Yousri derives from this art a distinct kind of symbolism that suits the postmodern age with its disbelief in eternity. Furthermore, divine hands cradled the Ancient Egyptian when he lived among his surrounding nature and community and practiced his religious rituals without knowing any kind of spiritual defeat. He was “living in the truth” as Akhenaton used to declare. Bassem’s people on the other hand, in which you find a 21st century amalgam of Eastern and Western taste, are deprived from that “truth” in it’s spiritual meaning; as life forces upon them a sense of alienation, loneliness, and psychological division and pushes them away from the embrace of the community and its collective consciousness. They remain lonely and separated even if they live among the crowds.

The papyrus that Bassem uses as the painting surface of his iconic portraits brings us back to that ancient age; the age of the birth of consciousness. The profile views of the portraits, with their repetition and steadiness, also emphasize the same connection with the past. The faces don’t carry a specific expression; they are more symbolic than representational. With this steadiness and the decadence of the surface under the effect of fire, a strong allusion to the meaning of time and the ancient past is pushed forward, accentuating, at the same time, the psychological fragmentation of the human being in our age, even if his outside is tinted with bright vibrant colors that Bassem might have inspired from his Eastern taste.

This is how Bassem’s figures and paintings are forged into some kind of contemporary icons. They reflect the human condition in a world where the principles of a civilization are destroyed under the heavy rock of pragmatic values while a strange nostalgia constantly guides mankind towards the power of the unknown, leaving him psychologically shattered. His lips are struggling between the desire to scream or ultimately remain silent.

— Ezz el Din Naguib, Egyptian artist and critic

Bassem Yousri’s Paintings introduce us to a painter with exceptional skills. He manipulates them to formulate an artistic style of his own, inspiring from his country’s history and cultural heritage, exploring and emphasizing, at the same time, his identity. This fact becomes obvious when we observe his use of the strong contours that define his figures and shapes that often possess symbolic meanings. His contemporary compositions reveal a vigorous freedom in handling the surface, both, visually and conceptually. The use of Papyrus as a painting surface underlines a connection that has historic and artistic significance; his work strongly reminds of Ancient Egyptian art and initiates an intimate conversation with it.

This formula signifies a sense of maturity and awareness of the path Bassem has chosen for himself. His career will definitely evolve through the constant experiments he is doing in his painting parallel to the body of work he is presenting in this exhibition. These two facts show us that Bassem understands that making art under the shadow of globalization doesn’t have to erase the artist’s fingerprint or take away his artistic personality; his identity. Moreover, he realizes that a true artist avoids being a repeated copy from others; he strives to represent his own point of view. This is what makes his work a real addition to the world of creativity.

— Dr. Sabri Mansour, Painter and instructor at the School of fine arts in Cairo, Helwan University.

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