In the November 2001 issue of ARTnews, Barbara Pollack wrote How Can You Think About Making Art at a Time Like This ? How Can You Not ?
That, of course , was written in the aftermath of the September 11th tragedy at the World Trade Centre.
Twenty years on and we are living a global nightmare, that initially started unfolding insidiously but soon culminated into a catastrophic, uncontrollable cataclysm that swept the entire planet.
At a point when the world feels like it is self-imploding and so many of us have incurred irreparable damage and inconsolable grief, how do we as artists, makers and creators move on when so many questions are still unanswered?
A few days ago, Reflections, the current show by artist Nazli Madkour launched in Cairo; a city in the grips of increasing Covid infections. The title itself is a dual connotation of partly holding a mirror to what is unfolding around us, and partly more evocative of a pondering and an existential reckoning with life.
Comprised of twenty-nine paintings executed mostly during her self-imposed 2020 lockdown and a few in 2019, they are middle-range formats of mixed media and acrylic on canvas, except for eight smaller ones that were done on paper.
Hidden narratives unfold in each work through the connections made by the formal elements on the canvas ; while the colour palette in some is more subdued and middle-keyed , in others it is punctuated with high notes of more saturated hues. In some instances, linear brushwork like calligraphic foliage animates the surface, giving the overall composition a jocular note of optimism.
For Madkour , nature is an endless source of inspiration and has informed much of her work in the last decade. Whilst continuously evolving and honing her skills she has diligently kept a very personal visual idiom.
Although the last eighteen months have been particularly challenging, she has kept daily regular studio hours. The mere act of showing up is what kept the creativity and motivation going, some days could be spent reading, writing or researching while other days could be more productive as I would be painting assiduously.
In this current climate where our relationship as humans with our ecosystem is more challenged than ever; let alone as artists struggling to find incentive and a springboard to creativity, the sheer hard work to staying anchored and motivated has proved to be a mammoth undertaking.
Madkour has wholeheartedly embraced the virtual world; as artists we relish the peace of solitude and the mental and physical space it gives us to think, improvise and create. Conversely, the imposed isolation incurred by pandemic-related restrictions is driving us to the brink of insanity. Not so long ago, in pre-Covid times , we were complaining that we had become a global race of automatons, robotically and incessantly wired to our tablets and mobile phones. Yet here we are, a year and a half later, forced to interact virtually , in lieu of dynamic exchanges in physical spaces . So, technology in this instance , has really been our salvation .
Nazli Madkour is an Egyptian-born self-taught artist. She holds a degree in Political Science from The American University in Cairo and has had more than thirty-six solo shows in Egypt and abroad spanning the continents of America, Europe and Asia.
She has illustrated the deluxe edition book of Egyptian Nobel Laureate Naguib Mahfouz, Arabian Days and Nights, published by the Limited Editions Club in New York in 2005. The book and the original paintings were first exhibited at the Corcoran Gallery, Washington D.C before touring several countries.
She lives and works in Cairo, Egypt.
Maie Yanni is an independent artist, curator and art contributor. She qualified from The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and in the year 2000 took a sabbatical from medical practice in order to fully concentrate on her artistic career.
Reflections a solo show by Nazli Madkour is currently showing at Picasso Art Gallery, Cairo until 11 June 2021.