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Timeless abstract

Hossam Dirar’s stunning body of work focuses on the inner beauty of women. Through divergent colour spectrums and varying brushstrokes, he captures the ups and downs of daily life and therein illuminating the strength of character of the women posing for him.

This showcase is a subtle narrative of intimacy and warmth that is always elsewhere, far in the distance, almost unreachable. In his study of the women posing for him, Hossam is simultaneously looking at carefully and taking distance from his subject.

Neither abstract nor figurative, Hossam's compositions are created and assembled almost in a series of frames and moving images rather than stills. The ubiquity and speed of his native Cairo is palpable in the fragile environments he builds; it is but through a combination of tension and void that these works gain sculptural frames and become three-dimensional.


Hossam Dirar was born in 1978 in Cairo, Egypt, lives and works in Cairo. One of Egypt’s most significant contemporary artists, included in Saatchi’s portfolio of emerging artists to invest in during 2013, Dirar is a multi-disciplinary artist working across painting, photography, installation, video and graphic design. His works are conceived as a re-interpretation of Egypt’s rich visual heritage, overlapping between the multi-cultural character of Cairo, the city’s complex and ever expanding urban façade, the region’s traditional iconography and the influence of contemporary media in shaping cultural referents. Dirar’s treatment of images is not simply a process of composition, but a deconstruction between digital environments and layers of representation.

A cinematic quality is associated with his paintings, where iconic images are expanded into almost theatrical montages peopled with time sequences tracing intoxicating historical scenes, after the matter of the epic history paintings of the 19th century but aided by the realistic eye of photography. The lens of the camera, however, is not determining the order of representation in the manner of a snapshot, but providing the foreground for a layer of painterly interventions almost independent of the surface. The technique is varied; sometimes stencil, sometimes traditional iconography and calligraphy, sometimes application of pure color. The artist is clearly indebted to pop art but his work defies reproducibility: The likeness with the digital is metaphorical and his process of abstraction is purely pictorial.


Mapping out the edges of contemporary consciousness from the viewpoint of Cairo and Egypt, Hossam Dirar’s work is a lyrical essay on beauty and everyday experience, inflected by mass-media generated realities that find their way onto his canvas as basic forms, constructing a body of perception that while born out of abstraction, is wholly graspable and divisible into units of meaning. Firmly anchored in the tradition of the icon, the religious meaning associated with contemplation is here dispersed into a variety of public celebrations – frenzy, ecstasy, hysteria – that do not fail to evoke the relationship at the heart of the iconographic tradition between the life of the mind and the life of the community. In his new series, dealing with faces of women, however, a different focal perspective emerges.


Dirar’s installation projects on the other hand, utilize ready-mades and crass objects incorporated into narrative multi-piece sculptures, often dealing with the turbulence of life in Egypt and voicing environmental and socio-political concerns. In a number of video works that largely complement his paintings, the artist has explored the cycles of saturation, repetition and transience that punctuate the apparatus of Modernity, as is present in cityscapes and moments of political upheaval. Hossam Dirar graduated from the fine arts department at Helwan University (Egypt) in 2000 and since then, his work has been showcased in numerous solo and group exhibitions in Egypt, United States, Slovakia, Germany, France, Italy, Austria and South Africa.


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