Hazem Taha Hussein

Statement and Biography

The Mirage II | Artist Statement | 2013

Hazem Taha Hussein is famous for his special technique in composition. His compositions are made of overlaying Islamic patterns on the background in an effort to hide the abstract figures he draws. After painting & drawing figures, faces, shapes & angels, he fully covers them with paint followed by bare areas. He finishes his paintings by covering the entire surface with interlacing & repeated Islamic patterns. The Islamic pattern laid on top gives movement, fluidity & change to the piece which makes the forms & figures before the eyes constantly appearing & disappearing like a mirage. The pattern he uses greatly resembles the patterns found in Mosques which makes the viewer stare at one point in the painting at a time. The viewing experience becomes fluid & is constantly changing at different states of emotions leaving the viewer to continuous interpretations and different insights, each time uncovering & rediscovering something new.
The Mirage II” is a continuation of a series that goes beyond the idea of a mirage as a natural optical illusion. It’s rather based on the production of social & cultural images & ideas that are often linked to mythical narratives merged one way or another with contemporary events. Concealing things is a new visual illusion to help read hybrid local & global codes. If we take heroes of American cartoons known to our culture like Mickey Mouse or we take the catholic angel & we mix them with veiled women & make them the background of an Islamic pattern, in that case, the Islamic pattern loses its original ideological function as a beautiful decoration, Mickey Mouse becomes the funny Egyptian Mickey not the one that represents Disney movies & the veiled women with the mausoleum in the background become storytellers of Greek-Egyptian stories from Cairo in the forties.

Therefore Hazem Taha successfully merges western and eastern elements in his artworks producing compelling forms for the viewer to interact with and to relate to, thus creating a new visual dialogue.


Inner dialogue…

Shut off from my surroundings – an inner dialogue that is exactly how I feel and hence, what I express, in this exhibition. I do not need to document the events unfolding in the World today, or in my life. The use of the language of abstraction and semi-abstraction emerges from an inner need to form visually my own virtual world. In this world, I am free to criticize, shout or reject without feeling the need to justify myself. For now, it is simply my way of communication.

I consider abstraction to be the only freedom I have in this life. I have created a virtual world that I inhabit in a dreamlike state. It is at once emotional and egotistical, with its own logical and imaginative dimensions. All appear in the mixture of semi-representational or non-representational elements like Islamic ornaments.

Abstraction, whether geometric or not, gives me a vast space within which I can express myself without boundaries. Simultaneously, it allows my viewers an opportunity to freely imagine and interpret the semi-representative forms, ornaments, scratches, textures and colors individually. However, I am inviting my viewers to feel the poetry and music that appear in their own aesthetical norms, traversing the large philosophical questions, and delivering “timeless” and “globally” recognized symbols, with full freedom, without the obstacles of culturally or historically related representational elements. 

Hazem Taha Hussein (Born 1961, Egypt), currently is working as an associate Professor of visual communication design Faculty of Applied Arts, cairo – Egypt. Hazem T Hussein is a pioneering Abstract and conceptual visual Egyptian Artist from the 5th Generation of the Egyptian Contemporary Art Movement.

Hazem Taha is notorious for his unique composition technique. He builds his work by overlaying Islamic patterns or motifs on the background, in an effort to obscure or hide his abstract figures. Starting with the painting or drawing of figures, faces, or angels, he then covers them with paint, followed by plain areas. He finishes the work by superimposing over the entire surface, repeated and interlacing Islamic patterns or ornaments that he is fond of. The result is an optical illusion similar to a photograph. It shows a profile that is never motionless before the eyes, but constantly appears and disappears. The patterns superimposed on the figures create a sense of fluidity, movement and change. The last layer with its repeated patterns is the most interesting. It resembles the repeated typically found in Mosques. This effect forces the spectator to stare at one point at a time. This view is fluid and will change at different times and at different state of emotions, leaving the viewer to endless interpretations and different perceptions and each time uncovering something new.

Therefore Hazem Taha, a neo-expressionist painter, has succeeded in combining western and eastern elements in his paintings to produce forms for the spectator to interact with and to relate to, thus evoking some visual dialogue. The works involve the spectator in a dialogue questioning the meaning about rather than the perennial appeal.

About the artist

Since the early 80’s Hazem Taha has been working as an artist, designer and teacher of visual communications design in Germany, Egypt and now in Bahrain. After developing the series of “Stick figures and portrait ghosts” in 1987, Hazem moved to Basel in 1988. This was the beginning of a series of new works whereby the paintings started to be superimposed with repetitive patterns. In 2000, Hazem continued to compose his works by the Juxtaposition of patterns leading to his own series of Omar El-Khayyam (A one man exhibition showcased at Space cream Art Gallery in Cairo). As he said, Hazem was inspired by his parents who are both artists. He learned from his father the importance of building layers while constructing a painting and he learned from his mother the technique of painting abstract figures in a dynamic or three dimensional perspectives. He has more than 80 products and public art projects in Africa, India and many other European and Arab Countries. He has been involved in Photomontage exhibitions in Cairo, Marseilles and Bonn, as well as painting exhibitions in various European countries, such as Sweden and Spain.

Group Shows – selected

FotoFest Biennial, Abo-Dhabi, UAE, 2015; FotoFest Biennial, Houston, USA., 2013; Land of the Hyperreal: Contemporary Art from Egypt, Havana, Cuba, 2010; What Happening Now?, Casa Arabe, Madrid, 2010; Triogie Méditerranéenne: from Athens to Marseille to Cairo, Palais de Arts, Marseille, France, 2008; What happening now: Art Palace, Ministry of Culture, Cairo, Egypt, 2008; The Present Out of the Past Millenia: Contemporary Art of Egypt, Kunst Museum Bonn, Bonn, Germany, 2007; Occidentalism: The West on the Eye of Egyptian Artist, Swiss Hotel, Cairo, Egypt, 2007; The Baggage, Alexandria Atelier, Alexandria, Egypt, 2007; Father and Son, Mohamed Taha Hussein and Hazem Taha Hussein, French Center, Alexandria, Egypt, 2006; Egyptian Artists with M. Abla, A. Nosier and others, 21 Art Gallery, Dubai, UAE, 2005; 1st Book-Biennale, Bibliotheca Alexandria, Egypt, 2004; Huruf: with H. El-Zani and H. Lotfi, La Bodega Gallery, Cairo, Egypt, 2002; Egyptian Art: Kunsthalle, Stockholm, Sweden, 2001; El-Nitaq Festival, Cairo, Egypt, 2001; Market Fair, Noteln, Germany, 1996; 8 Egyptian Artists, Kunsthalle Augusburg, Germany, 1990; Egyptian Young Artists, Oman, 1989.

Chr. Marian Stiftung’s Fellow, Basel, Switzerland (1988): Fellow of Egyptian Ministry of Culture (2003-2005); DAAD Fellow (1990-94) and Visiting Professor (2005).

Solo Shows – selected

  • Inner Dialogue, Al Masar Gallery for Contemporary Art, Cairo- Egypt, 2017 – Shut Off, Al-Bareh art gallery, Manama, Bahrain, 2015- The Mirage II, Al-Masar Art Gallery, Cairo, Egypt, 2013- The Mirage I, Al-Bareh art gallery, retrospective (painting and mixed media), Manama, Bahrain, 2010- Ekhnaton Gallery, Cairo, Egypt, 2004- Espace-Karim Francis, Cairo, Egypt, 2001; El-Gezira Art Center, Cairo, 1999.- Tour Haus Gallery, Münster, Germany, 1995; AWO Gallery, Duisburg, Germany,1994 – DAAD Gallery, Cairo, Egypt, 1993 – La Part du Sable Gallery, Cairo, Egypt,1989 – ACS-Gallery, Zurich, Switzerland, 1988.