An existential dream roams over the heads of Kamal El-Feky's characters.
The Chinese philosopher "Guang Zhou" dreamt that he was a butterfly. As he woke up he said: "I dreamt that I was a butterfly flapping my wings, while not feeling or realizing my human self. When I woke up, I found myself here as a man, as I was, I don't know now whether I am a man, at that time who dreamt he was a butterfly... or am I now a butterfly dreaming it was a man? I remembered the dream of -"Guang Zhou" and his confusion as to whether he was a butterfly or a man and what was the reality and what was the dream-. when I saw the inspiring collection of Kamal El Feky’s sculptures. I am referring particularly to the sculpture depicting a bright blue perplexed man, wandering at the butterfly standing on the palm of his hand... Maybe the man himself is also uncertain as to who is the man and which is the butterfly. In fact, it was clear by the mere movement of the man’s legs, one well planted, alluding to certainty, and the other pointing backwards, suggesting uncertainty. The exhibit entitled "Infinite" has increased the convergence of our ideas, with a prevailing existential uncertainty. I personally find that the artwork "the Man and the Butterfly" is part of a philosophical vision experienced by the artist, And that the "Butterfly Dream" roams over the heads of this characters. For example one of El Feky’s sculptures is a man with the head of a horse... and another with the head of an elephant... and another with an eagle on his shoulders... and an elephant with the wings of a bird. the "Elephant-Man" and "Horse-Man" may be wondering if a man dreams that he is an elephant, or is he an elephant who dreams that he is a man? The other has the same uncertainty, whether a man dreams that he is a horse or is it a horse dreaming that he is a man? In addition to the human body, this confusion of existential nature led to the artist’s interference, Both intellectually and aesthetically. The two men, the Elephant and the Horse seem to be hanging on the edge between consciousness and sub consciousness, action and inaction, as their positions reveal, that of swaying over the edge of their seats as if they had not realized the metamorphosis that happened to them. Also, the movement of the two arms reveal an element of surprise. Which of those is of an existential nature? The energy emanating from their bodies seems suppressed in contrast with the energy coming out from the self-assured and assertive heads of both the horse and the elephant. The artist also presented two elephants with the wings of a bird, one of them standing firm in its place not realizing what happened to him, the other more daring, with its legs raised and ready to fly as if to test and activate its wings. This pleasant bewilderment of the mind and the aesthetic perception towards El-Feky’s figures looses its impact if we look at his sculptures as works of fantasy or derived from myths, such as the centaur that appears in the Greek myth - a creature with the body of a horse, and a human torso and head -. However, if we look at it away from fantasy and myth, we will be faced with existential questions raised by the artist: Who am I? Which direction should I take? Especially in our age, where a lot is expected from physical changes in light of the existing genetic manipulations. Actually, I think that El Feky’s exhibition raises questions related to contemporary art and its connection with science and genetics. There is yet another intellectual issue revealing the struggle between our conscious and our unconscious mind, As an example, a sculpture depicting a horse with two riding knights, each pulling from one side against the other: A symbolic transgression between the conscious and the subconscious, Consciousness is represented in the knight riding in the direction of the horse’s progression and the subconscious in the opposite direction, I loved seeing the work as if the artist presented us with an embodied vision that we see for the subconscious represented by the rider heading with his body against the direction of the horse’s movement, I loved the fact that the work is an embodiment of the subconscious portrayed in the rider going in the opposite direction, El-Feky’s tests the ability of the viewer to realize how one can deal in situations where there is confusion in the directions one should take. Among the exhibition’s important works is the sculpture "The Knight and the Horse", in which the artist discusses the paradox of synchronicity in decision-making. The rider seems like an unbalanced mass on top of a completely stable, balanced horse, extending his legs, his head down in a ready-to-go position, while facing statically the immobile horse, rooted in the ground. Their inconsistency and the difference between their synchronicity reveals a certain vulnerability. In fact, the horse with all its dignity does not seem to care about their incompatible connection. In spite of their physical and spiritual presence, El-Feky's horses, are metaphysical, as if stuck in time or coming from outer space carrying the characteristics of an Etruscan horse, living in isolation, confined in one place, and staring into space. El Feky’s special artistic expression of the horse is reflected in the self-assurance that he embodies, as well as the physical presence of the bodies and limbs. At the same time, the artist resorted to a shiny medium for his sculptures to suggest movement and lightness, the shiny material also acts as mirrors to reflect bodies and faces so that the audience feel included and part of the show. It is a way to contemplate their mirrored bodies on the surface of the sculptures and reflect whether they are really what they see or are they just images contemplating themselves? One would wonder if the intensity of the luster reduced the impact and therefore deprived us of the pleasure of watching the relation between the shadows and the light reflected by the mass and the topography of the surface. I suppose El-Feky likes to deal with two distinct attractions: the attraction of the earth to his sculptural mass and the attraction of the shiny surface to the light, so that it turns into a vital and active element. The shapes, lines and masses in El-Feky’s works, are Delicate and smooth yet they seem to evoke primitivism, magic, and dominance, depicted in large cylindrical and spherical architectural forms to suggest the sculptural and kinetic energy emanating from his sculptures. In general El-Feky’s exhibits present some philosophical thoughts. However, I think it is also characterized by surrealist and metaphysical poetry, to reflect the existential state of a world, whose vocabulary is familiar, while its structural setting is still unknown. Aesthetics is not enough on its own: what pleases the mind is awareness and contemplation beyond the artistic treatment. Since I am a follower of El-Feky’s art, I can say that he is bold enough to put forward the idea of metaphysical skepticism, the talent to translate his philosophy into structures and forms; All this while respecting aesthetics and beauty!
Fatma Ali (Art-critic)