PAINTER ON A STUDY TRIP
1 April – 6 May 2014
Gypsum Gallery, Cairo
"Gypsum Gallery is thrilled to present a pivotal solo show of works by Alexandria-based Mahmoud Khaled. Spanning photography, sculpture, painting, text, video and installation. Painter on a Study Trip was sparked by an encounter with an eponymous 19th Century oil on canvas painting in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts in Alexandria. The painting triggered a chain of reflections on the artist’s own classical training as a painter at the Academy of Fine Arts in Alexandria and its complicated relationship to the language and values of contemporary art.
Khaled compiled a concise lexicon of six key terms that recur in art history books to define art practice. Process, material, detail, source, exercise and composition form the basis for six new works that propose formal, poetic and associative interpretations of each term. The series, for which the gallery space is radically transformed, is presented from the perspective of a semi-fictitious student/artist on a field trip to Antoniades Gardens, a landmark Alexandrian garden modeled as a miniature version of Versailles Palace, and used as a standard location for outdoor assignments at the art academies.
The show includes an earlier work by Khaled entitled Memorial to Failure (2013) comprised of a video and a sculpture. The work is based on an actual studio visit between the artist and the renowned Italian thinker Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi conducted while Khaled was completing a one-year study program at the Home Workspace (HWP) in Beirut in 2012. At once minimal and poetic, Painter on a Study Trip mixes autobiography and research to form a pensive and precise multi-layered show."
Texts & related links:
List of Works:
Process documents Khaled as he surreptitiously photographs on his mobile phone Painter on a Study Trip, the painting that inspired the show. The painting itself is a self-portrait of an artist on his way to set up his canvas in nature. In both works, the subject is the process leading up to producing a work of art.
Framed C-print of a photograph of an undated painting by A. Scognamiglo entitled Painter on a Study Trip captured on an iPhone at the Alexandria Museum of Fine Art 100 x 70 cm
Composition is a site-specific sculptural installation. Khaled converts one of the gallery rooms into an empty sky-blue ceramic tile pool. The windows of the gallery are covered with a plush red velvet curtain, blocking out the existing view. The installation draws on the crumbling pools and fountains of Antoniades. Unused, the structures take on a minimal sculptural form. Composition relocates nature into an artificial environment, but it also upends the classical idea of sculpture with negative rather than positive space forming the core of the work.
Detail is a series of six framed C-prints that document landscape and architectural elements of Antoniades Gardens (a roman amphitheater, stucco and marble steps, a pair of broken benches, a dilapidated glass and metal atrium) with side notes that record observations by the artist/student about this locations. Methodically arranged in a grid-like format, each individual photograph is conceived as a detail, a fragment of a study intended for subsequent use in an artwork.
Source follows the same pictorial logic of Detail. It features the interior of two official institutions which controls Antoniades Garden as a heritage side.
In Exercise, Khaled commissions a professional artist to execute a tromp l’oeil painting of a marble statue from a picture of Antoniades Garden. The original sculpture, which frequently featured in student paintings, depicts a beautifully crafted human figure with an ambiguous gender identity. In fine art academies, tromp l’oeil style is often used as the measure of successful draughtsmanship.
Material refers to the physical materiality of a painting. It is composed of a realistic rendition of a blank computed-generated canvas hanging on a white wall. This gesture points to the notion of illusion and the distance between the subject and its representation.