Adel El  Siwi  (Egypt, born 1952) The Guard (I to V) overall: 120 x 210cm (47 1/4 x 82 11/16in) each panel: 120 x 42cm (47 1/4 x 16 9/16in)
Lot 413
Adel El Siwi
(Egypt, born 1952)
The Guard (I to V) overall: 120 x 210cm (47 1/4 x 82 11/16in) each panel: 120 x 42cm (47 1/4 x 16 9/16in)
Sold for £21,250 (US$ 36,107) inc. premium
Auction Details
Lot Details
Adel El Siwi (Egypt, born 1952)
The Guard (I to V)
oil, watercolour, gold paint, crayon and glue on five panels; pentaptych, framed
signed and dated "SIWI 07" in English, titled in Arabic and dated 2007 (on the reverse of each panel)
overall: 120 x 210cm (47 1/4 x 82 11/16in) each panel: 120 x 42cm (47 1/4 x 16 9/16in)

Footnotes

  • Provenance:
    Property from a private collection, London

    For a similar pentaptych from the artist, see Christies Dubai, Modern and Contemporary Arab, Iranian and Turkish Art, 25 October 2011, Lot 38

    "Most of every painting I confronted in awe was a source of stories to tell; canvases that recounted stories of places, creatures and things. Seldom have I been impressed or taken aback in surprise by abstraction; only stories manage to shake me in awe.....Only works with symbols, codes, forms, values, signs and narratives are those that I consider embody the best achievement we have created as humans." – Adel El Siwi

    Adel El Siwi is a master of narrative portraiture; delicately rendered and subtly political, Siwi's portrayals, whilst seemingly benign, are replete with subversive cultural symbolism. Characterizing himself as a polemical artist, Siwi skilfully uses suggestive historical referencing to highlight social injustice and political demagoguery.

    This is achieved through a uniquely hybrid aesthetic, which is a blend between the colossal elongated pharonic imagery of ancient Egypt and more coarse and primitive African folk art. By binding these two traditions, Siwi not only invokes a sense of historical continuity in his works, but channels the sceptre of pharonic demagoguery through the familiar visual language of common folk art, rendering it ever more immediate and threatening.

    Whilst Siwi has often veered towards more naturalistic, anatomically realistic depictions of the human face the present lot is arguably more sophisticated and accomplished in its subtlety and abstraction. At first glance one can almost miss the acutely elongated faces, stretched to the point at which they almost resemble vertical strokes of paint. This extreme perspective, however, is purposefully rendered to give the figures a spectral and ghostlike quality, highlighting that they are figments of an ancient past, resurrected in faded guises as a cautionary tale against social oppression.

    Wrought with symbols and allegorical significance, Siwi's depictions often point to fables and stories drawn from Egypts rich mythology. The "Guards" in the present depiction therefore point not only to the repressive instruments of authority that exist within the modern police state, but perhaps allude to the ancient Egyptian ritual of Retainer Sacrifice, where guards, servants and vassals of recently deceased Pharoahs were executed in sacrifice of their fallen master. The victims of these sacrifices were often depicted on ornate sarcophagi, in elongated, regimental formation, ready to serve their master in the afterlife.

    Through this dualistic approach to his depictions, Siwi suggests that the even the instruments of authority are drawn from the wider populous, and like the people they repress, can fall victim to the vices and injustices that accompany totalitarianism.
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