In memoriam: Hazem El Mestikawy (1965-2024)

القاهرة، مصر

Community Jameel mourns the death of Hazem El Mestikawy, a pioneering artist whose intricate sculptures, made from everyday materials and drawing on science, geometry and language, explored dualities and contested ideas. His work 'Bridge' (2009) was shortlisted for the Jameel Prize in 2011 and 'Alif Beh' (2006-2009) is held in the Art Jameel Collection.

Hazem El Mestikawy

Hazem El Mestikawy was born in Cairo in 1965 and studied sculpture at Minya University before embarking on a career as an artist that featured exhibitions at Art Talks Gallery in Cairo, Galerie Atrium ed Arte in Vienna and Project Space Art Jameel in Alserkal Avenue, Dubai. He also served as director and chief curator of the Museum of Egyptian Modern Art (MEMA) in Cairo.

Winner of the grand prize at the 13th Asian Art Biennale in Bangladesh in 2008 for his work 'Patent pattern', El Mestikawy's work is held in the collections of MEMA in Cairo, the North Carolina Museum of Art and the Art Jameel Collection.

Alif Beh (2006-2009)

A sculptural installation comprising 60 pieces representing 30 Arabic letters suspended and placed on the floor, 'Alif Beh' (2006-2009) is a prime example of El Mestikawy’s capacity to transform everyday materials, such as cardboard, recycled paper and glue, into solid, complex works that reference science, maths and physics.

The intricate process, which has become his signature, enables El Mestikawy to explore the duality between the positive and the negative, lightness and heaviness, and light and shadow. 'Alif Beh' work is a study in form and is drawn from a reduction in geometric forms and letters to create two distinct perspectives: the cityscape and the mashrabiya.

Held in the Art Jameel Collection, 'Alif Beh' was exhibited in 2017 at Project Space Art Jameel, the temporary space in Alserkal Avenue, Dubai, managed by Art Jameel before the opening of the Jameel Arts Centre in 2018.

Commenting on the exhibition, Antonia Carver, director of Art Jameel, said: “Hazem has a remarkable interest in form and material, transforming cardboard and recycled paper into intricate, geometric sculptural shapes. He has been an integral part of the Egyptian scene, and a strong influence on other artists, for many years.”

El Mestikawy cited both aesthetic and environmental reasons for his choice of material; as he has explained: "I love the construction, and I love the hollowness. I love that the work appears so solid and yet is very light and easy to pack and carry. I sometimes make huge exhibitions that come out of a very small box. I love the shock on curators’ faces when I open my bag and start pulling the pieces out."

Bridge (2009)

A sculptural installation made from recycled cardboard and newspaper, 'Bridge' (2009) was produced by Hazem as a continuation of his exploration of the socio-political issues of North versus South, and East versus West.

According to the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A): "El Mestikawy defines the space between different regions, both geographically and metaphorically. The building and pattern of the work depend on the equity of all the edges; there are no stronger and no weaker edges, the parts are equal and occupy an equal amount of space. His practice assimilates ancient Egyptian and Islamic art and architecture, as well as contemporary and minimal art philosophies."

'Bridge' was shortlisted for the 2011 edition of the Jameel Prize, an international award for contemporary art and design inspired by Islamic tradition. The Jameel Prize is organised by the V&A in partnership with Art Jameel.

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