Perhaps the most striking quality of El Sanhoury’s canvases are that at first glance and from afar they resemble actual paintings, her exceptional medium is not instantly recognizable, which is partly her aim when creating her art, to establish the impression of painting with fabric.
Safarkhan is proud to present for her first solo exhibition in Egypt, the rare talents of Neama El Sanhoury from December 14 to January 12. Although El Sanhoury has been practicing as an artist for over three decades, exhibiting across Europe, she has yet to garner the acclaim that her extraordinarily original art warrants in her native Egypt. Neama’s compositional style of ‘textile painting’ involves her sourcing and hand sewing various types of fabrics with differing textures and tones onto canvas. These are then supplemented with elements of elaborate collage to create a variety of scenes spanning still life, landscapes, figurative and abstract pieces. El Sanhoury’s upbringing in what she describes as a cultured household is primarily what cultivated her profound appreciation and commitment to rectifying Egypt’s wealth of historical and civilizational customs and heritage, the rich common thread that unites all Egyptians. Naturally, she pursued her studies in a similar direction, specifically in applied arts as well as Egyptology in France, prior to embarking on her career in art.
The inspirational thrust behind Neama’s captivatingly unique ‘textile painting’ stems from her dearly held childhood memories, which gave birth to her innate fixation on restoring into our collective conscience the memories of those ancient civilizations that we too often seem to disregard in the modern day. From the wellspring of art and knowledge originating with our ancient Egyptian ancestors, to the wonders of the Coptic and Islamic eras and thereafter, El Sanhoury seeks to remedy the shared threads of Egyptian heritage; she succeeds at presenting this to the current generation with an unmistakable contemporary appeal as something to educate, treasure and venerate. Her ‘textile paintings’ are replete with symbols and motifs drawn from Egypt’s diverse civilizational history. These include hieroglyphs inscribed on pharaonic sarcophagi, traditional ornate yet delicate Coptic textile patterns, and the familiar wooden Islamic mashrabiya. Also, the more contemporary cultural markers such as the small copper gas burners and earthenware water pots, ubiquitous features in Egyptian homes and streets, as well as the typical and symbolic animals that were an eternal part of Egypt’s daily life, such as the humble donkey, chicken, ox and duck.
Perhaps the most striking quality of El Sanhoury’s canvases are that at first glance and from afar they resemble actual paintings. Her exceptional medium is not instantly recognizable, which is partly her aim when creating her art, to establish the impression of “painting with fabric” as she says. Her art features a ceaseless element of organic movement that only the effect of fabric could portray; she complements this with a palette that is entirely harmonious yet stimulating in terms of its subdued, natural and earthen tones. It is because of this rare shared spirit and Sanhoury’s artistic ability to play tribute to bygone eras in a wholly unconventional and original manner that Safarkhan should make a fitting home for her moving works in the years to come.