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Wageeh Wahba’s expressionist universe

In the 43 paintings presented in Wageeh Wahba’s latest exhibition, which opened last Sunday at the Ebdaa Gallery in Zamalek, the artist uses bold colors to create a sense of emotion.

The paintings in Wahba’s recent exhibition represent Wahba’s work over the last three and a half years. “Since I started this series of paintings I have been obsessed with the significance of the word ‘trio,’ a concept rich in sub-meanings the scope of which exceeds the field of music to address physical and non-physical aspects,” says the painter of his recent work.

There is something that feels temporary about Wahba’s work. The human shapes are roughly sketched. The bodies look as though they are hidden behind a thin curtain of smoke, giving the paintings an eerie effect despite their bright colors.

Spirits float along the canvas, sometimes obvious to the eye, other times subtly camouflaged. The space between two figures in a painting can sometimes reveal a woman’s face in two of three elegant lines. These human shapes have a graceful fragility, an aspect of weightless, like a flickering flame. 

Brushstrokes of fuchsia, yellow and green share the canvas as two-dimensional, distorted forms blend into a pastel landscape. “Even though the human figures are the focal point of my paintings, they are always set in a landscape that constitutes the emotional continuity of theses characters,” Wahba says, pointing to the similarity in color between human shapes and nature.

Wahba uses various techniques in his paintings. “I use the colors in a transparent way, like aquarelle and mix it on some paintings with the density of acrylic,” he explains. Pastel is also recurrent in his work, underlining some shapes and creating complex patterns. “I like the feeling of the dry brush and the waxy aspect of the pastel,” he says.

Wahba describes himself as a member of the expressionist school, which focuses on complex psychological themes. “Along with the term expressionism comes the feeling of melancholy, that can be deciphered in my work in spite of the many touches of light that sparkle it,” he says, stressing that in his latest body of work he did not deliberately use brighter colours.

This latest statement did not seem obvious to visitors, who marvelled that Wahba’s recent work seemed more joyous than his older paintings. In one remote room of the gallery, Wahba exhibited a series of black and white paintings that exude a strong feeling of gravity and gloominess. The human shapes are minimal. A few angry brushstrokes in black acrylic create slender, lean bodies.

Two other paintings feature splashes of organic brown and dirty yellow. Deflated paint bubbles create a colony of round, empty shapes that sadly speckle the canvas, while the breathless movement of the brushstroke, fails to bring any energy back to the painting.

This work can be seen until 31 May at the Ebdaa Art Gallery.

23b, Ismail Mohamed Street, Zamalek

0102155702 – 0114456988

Open Saturday to Thursday from 10AM to 10PM

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