Updated: Nov 30
New series of oil paintings by Ashraf El Zamzami
Zamzami’s art can often be challenging to the viewer, though not in the distant sense but instead due to its almost addictive otherworldly energy and substance, reinforced by an ever-optimistic child-like palette bursting with primary colors and bold tones, and a compositional nature that straddles abstract-figurative boundaries with a cultivated experimental zeal.
Ashraf El Zamzami has been a mainstay on the contemporary art scene since the early 1990s. El Zamzami’s art has undergone several stages of distinct evolution, demonstrating a versatility few may boast of. In its most recent iteration, his painting represents a further evolution of his unmistakable and unapologetic brand of naive art or art brut (outsider art), underpinned by its reminiscence and rekindling of youthful origins. Zamzami’s art can often be challenging to the viewer, though not in the distant sense but instead due to its almost addictive otherworldly energy and substance, reinforced by an ever-optimistic child-like palette bursting with primary colors and bold tones, and a compositional nature that straddles abstract-figurative boundaries with a cultivated experimental zeal. This latest collection constitutes an even deeper delve into the recesses of Zamzami’s mystifying psyche, taking us to a place where the unadulterated reckless abandon of childhood takes over. It is an entire world at the feet of a mind with an undying youthful exuberance still so vigorous in his old age.
This collection is characterized by a variegated palette that stays true to the artist’s sensuous proclivities, a telltale sign of Zamzami’s work is its expertly mixed and matched color combinations that are not only visually striking but also ignite our contemplation. Predominantly composed in medium sizes than the artist usually works with, a large portion of this recent collection strays from purely figurative scenes and depictions, into an ever more abstract vision in which the main protagonists are instead obscure yet alluring straight and rounded geometric shapes, objects and color blocks. Into this matrix of his imagination, Zamzami sparingly sends rudimentary forms of animals and humans that almost contort and conform to these ambiguous spaces, rather than coming to dominate them as in his prior work.
Zamzami again demonstrates the rare ability to take the most mundane of symbols and objects, and assiduously transform them into something entirely new though still relatable and replete with meaning. In his figurative portrayals, the enigma of Zamzami is further cemented, with the ability to accomplish through an otherwise crude and barebones simplicity of composition, the most sincere and evocative portrayals of the physical and mental human condition.
That is what at the core sets Zamzami’s brand of art decidedly apart, his ability to impart meaning and sensation with a mere line, a brushstroke, a blotch of paint, a vision of color – encapsulating within his art that elusive essence of childhood like no one else. It is perhaps best captured in the words of Da Vinci, who asserted; “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” Founder Sherwet Shafei unearthed Zamzami’s raw talent and exhibited his debut as an artist more than 20 years prior. Ever since, she has been amongst his closest and most influential supporters and mentors. Zamzami was a graduate of the Academy of Fine Arts in Minya, and studied art on scholarship in Italy, before having garnered acclaim in his native Egypt and abroad. Zamzami recently returned to his practice after a lengthy hiatus and is regarded as one of the most established and reputed contemporary talents in Egypt today.
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