"Mirage a mini retrospective exhibition by Bahrain-based Egyptian artist Hazem Taha, last September showcased the artist’s oeuvre arranged chronologically, from the earliest work displayed at Albareh Café gallery to his recent work at Albareh Art gallery.
His works from 1988 to 2006 exhibit a sophisticated and sympathetic grasp of his Egyptian and European cultural roots that enabled him to develop a sequence of thoughts, which helped him work out formal and pictorial solutions – formal and symbolic analogues based on his personal experience in life.
His 2010 paintings, Vanishing Things, are assemblages of figurative paintings overlaid with reticular Islamic grid. But the grid created by Hazem was a cohabitation of circles arranged in a pattern where colour changed depending on the image underneath and as the cells fuse, the invariable vertical or horizontal configurations form a degree of Phyllotaxis.
This highly technical rendering required the artist’s devoted energy which leads the viewer to question where his principal focus of attention lies as Vanishing Things exposes his appetite for system of order and the pleasure one can find, in being lost.
Because underneath the veil of Phyllotaxis, the human figure emerge with genuine painterliness. In near-monochrome, regardless of size, Hazem consistently presents a figure with gestural spontaneity which brilliantly captures the sense of hand at work.
Given the look and timing of Hazem’s stylistic revision, on his ‘Face’ series, one would be tempted to characterise the development of neo-expressionist breakout. Yet Hazem’s ‘Face,’ in origin and effect, stand far from any expressionist prototypes because neither anger nor imperiousness can be detected in his manipulations of the human face and its control – not willfulness that one reads in every stroke. The facial deformations and dislocations never translate as the artist’s alienation from the ‘other,’ nor is the viewer shocked or entreated into emphatically experiencing Hazem’s relationship to humanity by having taken liberties with the schema of representation to near-abstract figures.
Thus, Vanishing Things shows that the relentless analytical spirit of Hazem led him to break the conventional definitions of aesthetics. He balanced contradictions and removed aesthetic boundaries while being uncompromising with the form. The human head/figure focuses on the reality of the present moment – where one can find pleasure in being lost; while grasping the timeless system of order – the Islamic grid. Vanishing Things is a creative reconciliation of opposites by Hazem Taha."
Maria Vivero, 2010
"he was the first artist to work with pastel colors using pharonic motives and symbols in primitive way of expression. His work was new and fresh full of infancy Spirit and energy. He used to work with acryllic colors, pastil and pencil on paper or canvas. We can see his emotional energic moments throw deep lines on the cartoon which looks graved."
Christine Rousellon, 1987.
"Amongst those showing ... was my hero of young Egyptian art - Hazem Taha Hussein, whose joyously childish pictures and edible pastel shades are an instantly recognizable trademark. Hussein once lived in a house in Germany that was "all pink" and this had an influence on the color coding of his works; infinite varieties of pink, are blended with layers of white, all in cool pastel fresco-like shades achieved with acrylics.
Child-like spiky suns and wobbly hieroglyphics are iterspersed with Hussein's reccuring ankh motif which is given the status of a dancing stick man, and has evolved to become a vital part of virtually all his works. Hussein used to work in black and white, and his prime motif then was a cross symbol. His present style, so quintessentially Egyptian, takes ancient tomb scripts and flings them into the present. Hieroglyphics are still very much with us as relics, but, like contemporary American graffitti art, they are simplified and relegated by Hussein to mere pleasing shapes, his personal and obsessive motifs. Indeed, I find them a refreshing change from the interminable variations of Arabic script secreting itself into every nook and cranny of modern Egyptian painting. It will be very interesting to trace the progression of Hussein's talent after his exchange visit to the picturesque old studios in Basle which are currently at his disposal."
Cairo Today, August 1988.
"Hazem taha Hussein's paintings are immediately attractive, they appeal almost as soon as you enter the room, even when half-hidden by the heads and drinking glasses of an opening night. First reactions are important; they may change and modify retrospectively but always not necessarily a bad thing. I have seen Hussein's pictures several times since the opening and thought about different aspects of his work, but I have never lost sight of thier color and tonal harmony.
Hussein is obviously an artist entirely confident of his technical abilities to handle paint and composition, this ease can be seen in all works exhibited here (if I'm wrong then he's doing excellent imitaion), the artist's assurance transmits itself via the paintings.
Indeed his work is so fluent that an almost inevitable aspect of most Egyptian artist's work is overlooked, that is the difficulty of looking for a path between the Scylla and Charybdis of national identity and modernity. Hussein's approach is to incorporate some some hieroglyphic motifs into a more modern context, a fusion that is not always explicit (expect for a few paintings where they provide the sole subject) and I believe this is an advantage. As a device, the use of traditional symbols can lead to clumsy disasters that destroy rather than integrate, but here the artist's visual "sense" has saved him from this. Do we demand of British artists that they include Big Ben in thier work? Of course not, so why must an Egyptian be burdened with the Pyramids. There are referntial elements in Hussein's paintings, and they work simply because they are chosen for what they can bring to piece, not because they are expected to be there."
The Pyramids Burden, Alan Smart, August 1989.