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Sweet Dreams

by Yasser Sultan -  2013 - article in Arabic

Amre Heiba in Kebab Gallery - Abu Dhabi

18 February 2009 -  article in Arabic

 

Amre Heiba : Slowly

By MASHRABIA GALLERY

CAIRO, 2016

 

It is the poem you have lost, the ills

From missing dates, at which the heart expires.

Slowly the poison the whole blood stream fills.

The waste remains, the waste remains and kills.

 

Mashrabia Gallery is delighted to present Slowly, the latest solo show by artist Amre Heiba. The exhibition consists of canvases inspired by William Empson’s poem Missing Dates: ‘Far from being a pure illustration of the text, Slowly is rather a visual expression of the feelings that the poem arouses’. Heiba has previously worked with poems and songs, wisely mixing and balancing between various artistic realms.

In line with his earlier work, Slowly recreates the sense of discomfort of a world changing towards the worst. The word slowly lends the exhibition its title, stressing a keyword of the selected quatrain. The term also acquires a wider and metaphorical meaning, inviting the audience to reflect and think about life, its acts and emotions. Indeed, the poem and the artworks share the same romantic nostalgia.

Working in the solitude and the calmness of his private studio or his farm in the outskirts of Alexandria, Heiba developed an impulsive and spontaneous style, ‘paint(ing) chaotically’ multilayered realities. Slowly brings together recurrent themes in Heiba’s practice. His subjects move in dark bi-dimensional interior and hostile spaces, surrounded by a gloomy atmosphere. Here, human-resembling silhouettes interact and overlap with stylized people, elements of popular culture, dolls and Ancient Egyptian gods, goddess and monsters.

 

Objects, people and places unsystematically recreate shots and fragments of everyday life and daily activities of a cosmopolitan yet surreal Alexandria. The coexistence of dreams, nightmares and imagination is contradictory and unavoidable at the same time and it instills a deep feeling of nostalgia and alienation and a longing for the safety of childhood.

 

Continuing a typical approach of Heiba’s production, the exhibition is the visual translation of collected memories and autobiographical elements in the guise of a personal diary hiding and revealing much about the artist and his mind games.

 

Biography

Born in 1962, Amre Heiba is a visual artist based in Alexandria, his native city. He holds a B.Sc (1984) in Biochemistry from Alexandria University and later studied Graphic Design in Munster (Germany) from 1986 to 1989. Heiba began working with an art group at the Goethe Institute in 1979, and he has been participating in exhibitions since then.

He is a member of L’ATELIER (Groupement des Artistes et des Ecrivains), Fikrun Wa Fann Gallery of the Goethe Institute in Alexandria and of the Syndacate of Visual Arts.

 

The artist has participated in international events and solo exhibitions both in Cairo and Alexandria.

 

Oil on Canvas (2015) 100x110cm

 

 

Oil on Canvas (2015) 100x110cm

 

 

 

Incubus

by Rania Khallaf is mildly intimidated

Alaram Weekly (5-11 Dec 2013)

 

Simply entitled Sweet Dreams, the exhibition currently on show at the downtown Mashrabiya Gallery evokes both dreams and nightmares. The more than 20 oil paintings on canvas adorning the walls of the gallery induce in the visitor a sense of gloom rather than the cheerful mood inspired by the exhibition title.

Born in Alexandria in 1962, Amr Heiba is a biochemistry graduate of Alexandria University in 1984. Two years after his graduation, Heiba travelled to Germany to study graphic design; he returned to Egypt in 1989 before completing his degree.

 

Heiba is a prolific artist; he has held 17 solo exhibitions in Cairo and Alexandria since 1988. The Musical Box was a particularly remarkable show of 2004, which included black and white drawings.

 

“I have worked on this collection since 2009. For me, drawing is a daily habit. It is like writing my autobiography. My paintings are a mere response to what I have been through: my thoughts, my hopeful and scary dreams and my feelings are reflected on their surfaces,” Heiba says.

 

Heiba smiles at the irony of the title: “The title of the exhibition came to my mind after I finished the collection. I believe the exhibition is partly a reflection of the 25 January Revolution and its aftermath and the effects on me. I was actually torn by the fact that the revolution turned out to be a nightmare,” he nodded.

However, Heiba admits that he followed the revolution only on the television screens, and never participated in a demonstration or a sit-in. “I had been in despair since the presidential elections that took place in 2010, and never imagined that this revolution would ever happen in Egypt,” he explains. “I expected back then, after January 2011, that life would totally change, that the winds of freedom and democracy would storm the country, but that was just another sweet dream.”

The exhibition is loaded with unique figures: the weight lifter, the policeman, demonstrators and dolls. “Jika [the young man killed under Mohamed Morsi who became an icon of the revolution] is one of the rare real-life figures embodied in one of my paintings. The story of this martyr has greatly affected me,” he said. 

Touring the exhibition hall was swift, as if the viewer were in a dream. Then you feel you should go round once again. The paintings bear no titles, and they look like a sarcastic record of a nasty dream, where dark brown and black prevail in the background. Dolls are among the most disturbing recurrent figures, like those strange symbols that would persist in one’s dreams. They appear in different shapes: big and small, elegant or mistreated, broken or whole, like a real girl. One impressive painting depicts a wounded man on an ambulance stretcher, with a doll watching him compassionately.

“I have a special passion for dolls, and I have always found it cheerful to buy dolls. I even buy dolls for my 11-year-old boy. I find a special beauty in them. I believe dolls are the naïve equivalent of people. I also have a passion for drawing still life. However, drawing dolls is different; they do have a unique spirit, mostly like human beings,” he explained. 

A policeman with stick in his hand is another recurrent figure, which chased most people’s nightmares during the first stage of the revolution. A unique painting portrays a policeman with a high wooden hanger behind him. On the hanger are scattered clothes, a metaphor for the changing roles or faces of authority. Another painting combined the two symbols: policeman with his stick, hitting the demonstrators while a doll in the background watches the scene in amazement.

“Though some of the paintings may seem to be easy-to-accomplish, I am used to being in a long continuous dialogue with my paintings; some paintings might take up to three years to complete,” he noted.

Rather than the nightmarish spirit inspired by the paintings, the viewer feels like they are locked in a small room and that the subjects of these paintings are mere prisoners. “This is very true, I always draw in my small studio, completely isolated from outside life. I used to paint landscapes, but that was a long time ago,” he commented. Slightly out of context is a painting illustrating a weeping lady, and in a small box on top of the huge painting is a portrait of the popular singer Abdel-Halim Hafez in a concert. Our nightmares are numerous, it seems. And one of them is the harsh decline in the musical standards and the gradual desertion of romance in our contemporary life. Indeed, visiting the exhibition is one thing that will help the viewer to contemplate and illustrate their own dreams, and bring them back to real life.

 

The exhibition runs until 9 December.

 

Oil on Canvas (2011) 60x60cm

 

 

Oil on Canvas (2012) 100x130cm

 

Breaking News

by Aida Eltorie, Art Critic

Paris 2008      

Breaking News

Oil on Canvas (2008) -PARIS 120x100cm

Amre Heiba, like Kenawy, shares a love for the surreal and the magical but in paintings and lithographs. Time and location are lost in Heiba's paintings. Nostalgia governs the layers of negative space juxtaposed with the shadow of a man, the up close of a kiss, a fragment of shower curtains, the stand still of a clock and the abandonment of a doll. He carries romanticized longings for innate desires. A draughtsman, he spends his time in his studio out on a farm in the Arab/Greco-Roman Mediterranean city of Alexandria. A city known to have set the stage for many writers such as Naguib Mahfouz and Adhaf Souief as modern and contemporary contributors to romantic Arabic novels and fictions, Heiba redefined his memory of a beloved Alexandria and turns his surfaces into diaries. He sketches his memories and writes poetry, lyrics, or ballads that continue his desires for the unattainable. His scripts are in English and not of the native language, once again reaching out to a wider collective.

 

In the works of the artists mentioned, there have appeared continuous notions of the following traits; the choice of representing popular imagery alongside culturally specific symbols that have been recycled to fit the needs of the artist as well as the contemporary viewer. Such depictions include the presence of super hero's, ancient Egyptian gods and supermodels, dolls, hawks, Bedouins and national diva's, all projected as works of art produced by local Egyptian artists dialoguing in Latin script a chain of alphabets that can also be read globally. The question of time, space and location are no longer the issue, but cultural definitions are being recycled to help adopt the habits of a digital age with a raging media.

 

TEMPORAL CONSIDERATIONS

by Ayman Monged

MASHRABIA GALLERY, CAIRO

15 MAY 2008

Temporal Considerations comprises 20 canvases, each measuring 120 cm x 100 cm. The series sees Amre continuing to tackle universal issues such as love, childhood’s aspirations, alienation and romance in our society.

 

His language is as eclectic as that of a shaman: he is at ease appropriating and creating imagery from his domestic surroundings, pop culture, high art, Pharaonic Egypt and the news media. The images he uses share each other’s space with unease: Broken dolls and childhood toys are grouped with lovers suggesting the child-like joy and sorrow of being in love; kissers obliviously share the canvas with clocks as if the duration of their intimacy is being measured; an infamous image from the Abu Gharib prison saga (an image that is repeated in many canvases in this series) is drawn over figures that have also been painted over raising issues of concealment and group morality; ghost-like and dramatically elongated (spiritual?) male figures are grouped besides a female nude posing in a rather lewd position; a collection of toy-like objects are rendered dysfunctional as they are placed in a hostile space. Curiously, one never gets the feeling of simple juxtaposition or of a moral stance. These canvases tell emotionally charged stories.

 

Amre uses a wide range of tools in his compositions and to various ends: In one painting, he frames figures in rectangles alluding to our voyeurism in the media age, in another, he is using the same device to tell a story within a story. In a third, a woman’s genitalia are framed as if a censor is trying to conceal them.

 

In contrast from his previous work, the compositions in this series are simple and spacious. The space is used to expressive ends and rarely as a background. His treatment of the space is assured, loose and expressive adding emotional depth to the exquisitely rendered images. The large, repetitive brushstrokes convey a sense of dissatisfaction, anxiety and sometimes even anger.

 

In most of the works in this series, the “backgrounds” cross over portions of an image that would have wholly occupied the canvas. This layering of imagery and use of multiple surfaces allude to a movement in time, as if there are remnants of the past that the present is struggling to overcome.

 

Amre grew up in post-revolution downtown Alexandria where traces of the cosmopolitan Alexandria of the first half of the 20th century were both visible and visibly being eroded. While the identity issue is never at the center of his stories, the paintings testify to his refusal of cornering himself in a made-up, or narrow, one.

 

Notes:

-          Amre Heiba’s Temporal Considerations are available at http://www.amreheiba.com/2000-2007.htm

-          Temporal Considerations will be exhibited at the Mashrabia Gallery on 15 May 2008.

Temporal Consedrations

Oil on Canvas (2007) -100x120cm

 

 

 

Alqahera-3 Jun.2008

 

 

Alaram Weekly (16-22 March 2006)

 
 

By   Farah El Alfy         

March 15, 2006

CAIRO: "And the nurse will tell you lies, of a kingdom beyond the skies, but I am lost within this half-world, it hardly seems to matter now, sang Phil Collins in an all-time favorite, Musical Box by Genesis from the 1971 album titled Nursery Cryme.

This song may not be climbing the charts anymore, but artist Amre Heiba remembers it quite well. The song is the inspiration for his new exhibition; an art book with each page a reflection of his feelings toward the song in no particular order.

During the time he was preparing for the exhibition, Heiba used to listen to the song non-stop. "It is not an illustration of the song, he explains. "I listen, then I put down what I hear . the way I hear it.

The song's dark lyrics are clear in the works, even if it is not a direct transition from text to image. According to Clare Davies, associate curator at the Townhouse Gallery, "the problematic transition from childhood to adulthood, a threatening sexuality and the passage of time are recurrent themes that haunt these works.

This is the second time Heiba has used text in his artwork. The last graphic exhibition he did was based on poetry by the Iraqi artist Bab El Shaker El Zayat.

Alexandrian Heiba is an artist with many talents, although he specializes in graphics. While he originally studied biochemistry, he later moved to Munster, Germany, to pursue advanced studies in graphic design. He is a member of the Goethe Institute, l'Ateleir and the Visual Arts Syndicate, and has had 13 solo exhibitions since 1988.

The technique he uses in this particular exhibition is called etching, which means he produces a design on a hard material by engraving into the materials surface. This time, Heiba chose a zinc plate as his medium.

Heiba is a gentleman farmer as well as an artist. This free spirit lives on his farm, where he takes care of his animals as well as continues to practice his art. He says, "When it's my mood to do paintings, I do paintings, when it's my mood to do graphics, I do graphics; and when it's my mood to work on my farm, I work on my farm.

View Heiba's work at the Townhouse Gallery, 10 Nabrawy St., Downtown, through April 5.

(2004) The Musical Box

 

Aleya Hamza Townhouse Gallery

    Cairo 2005

Amre Heiba's body of work is informed by the time and place in which he occupies. Usually painting in the isolation of his studio, either in the city of Alexandria where he resides, or on his farm in the delta where he works, Heiba often draws his inspiration from the people, images, objects and sounds he encounters in the surrounds on a daily basis.

 

Using the medium of oil on canvas, his paintings collapse conventional distinctions    of genre categories, such as still-life, portraiture or landscape-to produce personal pseudo landscapes of his life, memory and imagination. His canvases are covered with layers of images and stencil text that exist as a visual manifestation of his thought process.

 

Yet certain themes and concerns seem to recur. An embracing couple, calling to mind a mixture of book cover illustrations and soap-operatic melodrama, surface in many of the pieces, referring to the artist's interest in the literary as well as his background in graphic design. Equally, the appearance of dolls, paper boats and family portraits suggest the space of the familial as a major concern.

 

Amre Heiba's current series of paintings are a continuation of his earlier pieces. Not unlike the pages of a diary, his chaotic ruminations and fragmented narratives, at once playful and dark, can be seen as autobiographical accounts that manage to conceal as much as disclose about the artist, and his preoccupations.

 

(2003) 80x80cm

 

Townhouse Gallery

    2002  

Amre Heiba lives in Alexandria and his work reflects the diversity of that metropolis, with all its multi-layered sounds, history, and rhythms. He finds inspiration in the images of popular culture and the rhythms of music, but also in the everyday moments of the people around him, and his works suggest layers, built up like collages or peeled back like archeology. There is a romantic nostalgic yearning in the figures-generally couples-who inhabit an apparently non-specific place but in fact their surroundings are filtered layers of surface and space. There is a suggestion that these characters are just passing through, as Alexandria itself is a place of transience.

(2001) etchings

 

Born To Be Wild

    Egypt Today 2001

Amre Heiba is a man who likes to tell stories in both art and in life. His current series of oil on canvas paintings are the wildest, most breathtaking and dynamic he has created so far. Famous for his spontaneous and impulsive painting techniques, Heiba claims to have the ability anytime, anywhere. His prolific high-quality production is witness to a great talent, both aesthetically and conceptually.

 

The main theme of Heiba's work is the daily myths consumer-oriented culture propagated by mass media. His style is strongly reminiscent of the work of the American pop artists of the 1960s, an analogy accentuated by his use of urban elements such as crowded cities, cars, street after the rain, stray dogs, stressed inhabitants, and the contradictions of waste and recycling. The diversity of Heiba's techniques carries the audience freely through thirty years of painting history in a single work. Contemporary painting using dripping, wild brush strokes and thin or thick outlines accumulating over layers of paint resemble German expressionism, while the textured sections of the canvas with heroes in clownish/ironic stature remind us of the Italian transavantgardia of the 1970s.

 

The "Trick" of covering parts of the canvas and leaving other parts unprepared, together with dripping colors is reminiscent of the American Haitian prodigy Jean Michel Basquiat though Heiba's subject remains profoundly personal. Heiba's heroes and/or objects are juxtaposed intelligently to create contradictory impressions: belief in progress is pitted against apprehension of catastrophe, wealth and poverty, expectation and disappointment, optimism and fear. Minute yet visually technical problems are also created, like painting a form then eliminating it by putting it under layer of transparent paint, putting the viewer in a state of "visual excavation".

 

The profuse use of dripping colors always sliding towards the bottom of the canvas in obedience of gravity, as well of the use of hastily scribbled Latin letters and numbers, is reminiscent of gravity on urban walls in areas where social problems are rife. Gigantic figures essentially in couples, executed exclusively by thick monochrome brush strokes, appear at the top of many works in a design reminiscent of ancient Egyptian horizontal and vertical layouts. A sense of sensuality and intimacy is felt between the couples, who are either kissing or in some sort of physical fusion. The human warmth of the figures is juxtaposed with the wild chaotic hand movement of the artist and his exclusive distribution of color and form.

 

In one work, Heiba divides the canvas into five compartments, like a comic strip where the heroes (a man and a woman) approach each other in one compartment and in the next they are kissing feverishly. Apples lie scattered in the upper compartment, perhaps a reference to Adam and Eve. The work successfully highlights the contradictions between forbidden male/female relationships in Oriental societies and the uninhibited presentation of these relationships through satellite channels. In another work, a young woman in a sexy night gown stands in front of a bathroom curtain, peering through the dripping layers of color, the viewer is left to his own imagination.

 

One minute hard-tip etching mysteriously depicts test tubes, flasks ad other laboratory objects alongside a male figure wearing an astronaut's helmet. "All my work is autobiographical", Heiba explains. "I studied biochemistry. I hated it. I always had to live with contradictions. I studied chemistry but wanted to be a painter, I do etchings and I work now as a farmer on my little piece of land. I like Mozart and I paint chaotically and without rules. I just love to tell stories."

(2001) 100x120cm

 

Townhouse Gallery

    2001

(2001) 100x120cm

William has asked me to write some words about my paintings. In fact, I think that talking about my work is a language that I don’t master, perhaps because I paint as spontaneously as I do every other daily activity. My paintings are a mirror which reflects these daily activities with all the contradictions they might include. The Key to my paintings is an alphabet consisting of those elements that I choose from what surrounds me either in the street or in my workroom. I think that these elements have to co-exist with each other in the painting as much as they exist harmoniously in my practical life. In brief, the paintings shown in this exhibition are nothing more than painted diaries.

 

Jan.1991-Alan Smart-Cairo Today

 

 

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.:  Copyright © Amre Heiba 2008 - Designed and development by Moataz El Safty                      :.  Last Update  Saturday, January 14, 2017   :.