Exhibition: Hamed Abdalla (1917–1985) | Zentrum Paul Klee

FOKUS: Hamed Abdalla (1917-1985)

FOKUS: Hamed Abdalla (1917-1985)


Hamed Abdalla (1917-1985) was a pioneer of modern Egyptian art. The Zentrum Paul Klee is showing a small presentation of his work in the FOKUS series. FOKUS is a space within the permanent exhibition Kosmos Kleededicated to particular aspects of Paul Klee's work or contributions to the global reception of the artist.

Egyptian artist Hamed Abdalla (1917-1985) is for the first time exhibited in Switzerland. Abdalla was born into a modest peasant family residing in Upper Egypt and has not attend any art academies. The self-taught artist rose to international prominence early in his career. His place of origin, especially the villages and landscapes of the Nubian region, as well as the smoky cafes of Cairo were his motives in the beginning of his career. With around 50 works, the exhibition shows various key aspects of Abdalla's oeuvre.

War Memory
From the 1950s, Abdalla lived in Copenhagen and Paris. Nonetheless, he continued to refer to the hectic political situation of his homeland in his work. His art sought an expression that would give a new voice to the hopeless and the oppressed, far beyond Egypt. In his works, he comments on his examination of war and suppression by using universal symbols such as figures of mothers holding their children or fragments of bodies.

“Creative words” and lovers
As an artist of the Hurufiyya movement, which developed the artistic potential of the Arabic alphabet, he invented his own "creative words”: written words expressed in paint, merging the figurative and the abstract, the secular and the sacred as well as the poetic and the political. Furthermore, Abdalla experimented with different techniques and materials such as crumpled paper, cracked surfaces or silk paper.

Throughout his creative years, Abdatta produced numerous paintings depicting figures in the act of love or the word "desire” (Hob).

People of the caves
Towards the end of his life, Abdalla's abiding fascination for prehistoric caves led him to a visual meditation on subterranean worlds. In the series Gens de cavernes (1975-1976) he manifests his wanderings in the caves of southern France and the rocks of Nubia during his youth and connects them with texts from the Quran.

Kosmos Klee
Abdalla engaged intensively with European modern art, in particular with Paul Klee and the ways in which the latter incorporated non-European imagery such as Mesoamerican formal elements or Egyptian hieroglyphs into his art. Abdalla took on a new perspective on Klee, identifying and pointing to the elements in which the Bauhaus artist had appropriated non-European motives. With his research in the field of visual expression and its history as well as with his art, Abdalla debunked orientalist canons and challenged Western Modernism.

The works of Hamed Abdalla are being shown in the context of the series FOKUS. The room is part of the dynamic permanent exhibition Kosmos Klee. The Collection, which offers visitors a chronological survey of Klee's artistic career and presents some seventy works as well as biographical material and items from the archive that are regularly changed.

The opening of the exhibition will take place on Friday, 26 January 2024, from 6 pm.
Admission to the exhibition is free on this evening.

Zaman Books & Curating: Morad Montazami, Madeleine de Colnet

With the support of
Kanton Bern, Burgergemeinde Bern, Bundesamt fur Kultur BAK



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