The new project by the Egyptian artist Sabah Naim has been designed especially for this exhibition. Her new work goes beyond the mere limits of the walls and, with its physical presence, occupies the space of the gallery. The installation consists of delicate transparent canvases suspended from the ceiling on which life-size figures of the inhabitants of Cairo are printed. The viewer is lost in a maze intended to recreate the chaotic atmosphere of the streets of Cairo, while the fragility and transparency of the fabric recall the expressive and formal delicacy of Islamic art. The photos, which were taken directly by the artist or selected from a local newspaper and her family albums, provide a variegated view of the local population. Soldiers, elderly people, young boys and women summarise the vast cultural and social range of the passers-by. Sabah Naim seeks to highlight the relationships between individuals while emphasising the difficulty of making contact in the hustle and bustle of daily life. The transparency of the materials creates a state of ambiguity between reality and fiction and forces the viewer into a direct relationship with the individuals. The viewer is thus made to feel an integral part of the work.
Sabah Naim’s work can be considered a kind of visual reporting whose subject matter ranges from personal and family events to the cultural origins of her land. Her works derive from a combination of photography, painting and collage. The photos are almost always black and white and are often accompanied by decorative features which, in terms of their motifs and colours, evoke the aniconic linear style of the Islamic artistic tradition. The realism of the human figures, who are bearers of their individual experience, thus contrasts with the abstraction of the sign. In some of her works, this contrast between abstraction and figuration is accentuated by the presence of newspapers or fragments of paper which are rolled up or crumpled in an orderly fashion on the canvas and are placed beside the photos, giving the base a tactile consistency.