Updated: Nov 30
Oil Painting by artist Omar Abdel Zaher
Omar Abdel Zaher returns with another spirited collection of works conceived in his heartfelt brand of expressionism.
Abdel Zaher’s latest work constitutes a sincere, impassioned exploration and meditation on the modest and down-to-earth sanctities of Egypt’s rural communities, specifically the roots of Egyptian civilization, the Upper Egyptian terrain from where he hails. Abdel Zaher is a self-proclaimed ‘ahl-ul-balad,’ the closest interpretation of which would be a man of his people or a humble patriot. He proudly counts himself amongst those inhabitants of Egypt’s sweltering south, where noble Nubian traditions still hold strong and dear amongst the hundreds of rural villages as well as to the city-dwellers of Luxor and Aswan, the latter of which the artist calls home.
Abdel Zaher again delivers a moving collection of works that study the typical happenings, scenery, characters, and aspects of daily rural life, which oftentimes seem worlds away from the Cairene existence that we are beholden to ourselves. Abdel Zaher’s brand of art is as much a refreshing escapism as it is the most honest reflection of life’s simple pleasures and the humble joie de vivre of the inhabitants of these settings. A jubilance emanates from their surroundings, steeped in the unceasing promise of nature’s bounty, the mystifying and persevering presence of the ancients, and an eternal air of tranquility and abundance that permeates these far-flung communities.
Abdel Zaher has made convincing strides in his compositional process, where there is more noticeable movement in figures, whether animal or human and also a more demonstrable influence in his most recent works drawn from a natural palette that adheres to a thoroughly realistic interpretation of earthy tones and texture. Relying less on bold colors to dominate his canvases, Abdel Zaher has now sought to advance an even more considerate blend of neutrals that provide the perfect backdrop for when such striking tones, like his beloved scarlet, yellow and green are judiciously applied. Often these hues are in the form of garbs that cloak the protagonists of his art, the meek yet regally poised countryside folk either tending to the day’s work or engaged in the prototypical festivities of the rural south. As always there is a constant conversation in his art between land, man, and animal, the inseparable co-inhabitants of these idyllic villages without which the townsfolk could not subsist.
Abdel Zaher’s animals are subtly and poignantly presented almost as equals to the people under whose dominion they reside. They are key protagonists and companions rather than reduced to mere meat for food or muscle for labor, Abdel Zaher conceives of them with a noble quality of their own that cannot be understated.
In his own words, Abdel Zaher’s art offers more than anything that came before him its intimate reflective capacity on rural life inside the home, as opposed to just outside it. Overall, he has again shown his faithful adeptness is one that is ever progressing in its ability to capture the essence of Egyptian rural life.
It is a heritage he has never shorn despite living in Cairo for so long, and one that always seems to him so close yet far removed from it. Perhaps even more significantly, however, it is his appreciation, veneration, and spiritual association with these basic yet essential elements of rural life that we seem to have discarded in the modern world in favor of technology, expediency, and false preconceptions of luxury and extravagance. In doing so, we shed our connection to the most simple of life’s pleasures, the trinitarian bounty of land, water, and sky, which we are all blessed with before anything else. It is humanity’s great equalizer, and Abdel Zaher’s art at its core seeks to reignite and then preserve that broken connection both with nature and with roots, the two inextricable from one another, that man is threatening to sever indefinitely.
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