Egyptian artists turn scrap metal into works of art

A recent symposium on scrap-metal art has brought together Egyptian artists who work with recycled metal and other material.

al-monitor Abdo Ramzy is an Egyptian artist known for his metal sculptures. Photo by artistabdoramzy.com.

Topics covered

recycling, egypt tourism, cairo, artists, art

Jan 2, 2014

Scrap-metal art is widely known and practiced by a large number of artists around the world. Rusted pieces of junk can be turned into amazing works of art.

It takes only a few old pieces of metal and welding tools — and most importantly, talent and creativity — to reshape things from a different and unusual perspective. Solid iron bars can turn into the limbs of a chimera. Rusted metal chips and pieces may become wings or structural elements in abstract forms.

Heads of horses are “born” from the remaining parts of an old car or abandoned metal tools. Everything depends on the ability of the artist to innovate, and come up with different visions for these pieces of metal.

This idea formed the basis of Cairo’s first scrap-iron sculpture symposium, in which 10 Egyptian artists participated, including Ahmed Abdul Fattah, Ahmed Moussa, Asaad Saeed Farhat, Tarek al-Kawmi, Taha Nasser, Abdo Ramzy, Ola Moussa, Kamal al-Feki, Hani al-Sayyed and Hisham Abdullah.

Over the course of several months, the participants turned the garden of the Mukhtar Museum into an open workshop to make art out of scrap iron. Iron cans, rods and other metal remnants were the only tools in the artists’ hands.

The symposium is the first exhibition dedicated to this type of art in Egypt, even though iron sculpting has existed in the country since the 1920s. This art form has been practiced by many Egyptian artists, most notably Salah Abdel-Karim, who was honored during the event. Pictures of some of his works were printed on T-shirts worn by participants during the symposium.

Abdel-Karim is a prominent artistic figure in Egypt and the founder of this type of sculpting. He was born in 1925 and died in the mid-1980s, leaving behind a large body of work in the fields of sculpture and photography.

Abdel-Karim began sculpting using scrap iron in the 1950s, after receiving an honorary prize at the Sao Paulo Art Biennial in 1959. Afterward, he received many other awards, both in Egypt and internationally, and with them, international recognition in this field. His works are exhibited at the Egyptian Museum of Modern Art and other places affiliated with the Egyptian Ministry of Culture.

Egyptian art critic Sobhi al-Sharoni told Al-Monitor of Abdel-Karim’s works, “Abdel-Karim took the art of scrap iron sculpting to an entirely different and unprecedented level among contemporary and old artists. He opened up new avenues for liberation and renewal. His sculptures abided by the laws of aesthetic balance and harmony between blocks and blanks. They are mostly diagnostic works.”

Sharoni added, “His style was characterized by a deep understanding of the raw material and achievements made in the world of art. They expressed the inclination toward manufacturing in Egypt after the July 23 revolution, as iron was a stark symbol of it. His statues of superstitious animals mainly expressed the estrangement felt by modern men and their horror of weapons of mass destruction.”

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