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Sameh Ismael

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Sameh Ismael

“For the past eight years the Arabic Alphabet has intrigued me and shaped my painting practice: the form of the letter, the symbol, the meaning and the phonetic. My dual practice as a professional painter and musician/percussionist feed into each other. The sounds produced by music led me to try to transcend the simple visual aesthetics of standard abstract painting; I introduced visual elements that could be linked to sound. Arabic letters have entered my surfaces as a recognized cultural form, a visual element that could be pronounced. I introduce elements that can be perceived and recognized in ways that could extend the simple visual legibility: elements that could actually move with the brush strokes and be representative as equal energy to the energy by which my abstract painterly techniques construct my canvases. The versatility of form of the Arabic letter, and its 1500 years of vocalized and painted history, plus the centuries old visual culture of “Khatt” –or Arabic Calligraphy—all complement my inspiration as a painter. In my research, I use surfaces cut in an extreme horizontal manner; the works are painted and displayed either vertically or horizontally like ancient Egyptian scrolls. I use sepias and blacks to signify age. The Arabic letters are not used as decorative motifs, but rather to recount a phrase or a meaningful sentence. My surfaces try to represent my very own multilayered culture: Arab, Egyptian, Mediterranean and African, where writing and painting were paramount tools for several renaissances throughout history.”

Personal Data

Born in 1974. Lives and works in Cairo.


1990 – 1992      Studied the Classic Arabic Calligraphy
1997                   BA of Fine Arts – Helwan University – Graphics & Book Art

Select Solo and Group Exhibitions

2009      Group Exhibition – Contemporary Visions 2 – Al Massar Gallery
2009      Group Exhibition – The Body – Al Massar Gallery
2009/10 The National Exhibition – Art Palace – Cairo Opera House
2009      Group Exhibition – Dar Al Fonoun – Kuwait – in Co-operation with Al Massar Gallery
2009      Group Exhibition – Contemporary Arab Calligraphers – Nabd Gallery – Jordan - in Co-operation with Al Massar 
2009      Art Residence in Art Natura Center – Barcelona – with the Artist & Curator Hamdy Reda - in Co-operation with 
               Artellwa Art Space
2009      Group Exhibition for Artists in Residence – Barcelona
2008      A Dialogue on the Railway: a project on one of the Egyptian Railways Association trains with the Graffiti 
               Austrian Artist Thomas Mock.
2008      Group Exhibition in Al Massar Gallery.
2008      International Ancient Cairo Symposium, with Contemporary Egyptian and Arab Artists.
2007      Private Exhibition, in Kebab Gallery, Abu Dhabi, UAE
2007      Private Exhibition, in Cairo Atelier, “On the Poem of Al Hallag - The Sufi Pioneer “.
2007      Season Premiere (P), Falaki Gallery, American University in Cairo, a collective show with some well known 
               Egyptian and American Artists.
2006      Al Borda, El Ministrly Palace, Geographical Manuscripts with the Visual Artist and photographer Hamdy Reda.