Kamal Khalifa Egyptian, 1926-1968

Khalifa’s evocative and unrestrained abstract composition shunned conventional methods in favor of a style the Modernist period in Egypt had not yet been exposed to until Khalifa's bold artistic irreverence.

Kamal Khalifa is regarded as one of Egypt’s most prolific modern artists. He left the art world with several categories of his intensley unique artwork consisting of sculpture, paintings, and black-and-white drawings. He produced his sculptures by combining a structured traditional method with a loosely stylized and erratic abstract form he became renowned for. It was important for him that his bronze and gypsum sculptures displayed flow and movement, and it is that feeling of movement that emanates so powerfully from Khalifa's work, rather than that of absolute form.

 

While Khalifa was a student in his fourth year at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Cairo, he quit, claiming that his studies added nothing to his art. He lived all his life in the Bab El Luq district of Cairo, in one room on the rooftop of an delapidated informal settlement, and it was in these modest living quarters where he produced all his great work and where he eventually met his demise in the form of tuberculosis. His black-and-white drawings and watercolor works demonstrate Khalifa’s evocative and unrestrained abstract compositional method, which shunned conventional methods in favor of a style of art the Modernist period in Egypt had not yet been exposed to until Khalifa's bold artistic irreverence.

 

Khalifa employed two techniques in his colored still-life paintings, which focused predominantly on floral displays. The first involves an interplay of colour coupled with a characteristic flirtation with abstraction. The second establishes a rich variety of traumatic emotions drawn from the artist’s life. To summarize his work, we can say that above all it was the artist's own personal suffering that was indelibly imbued in his sculptures and paintings. This was a suffering that while comprehensible and relateable to a universal audience, was innately unique to Khalifa allowing him to produce works the often contained within them a distinct otherworldy essence.