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“Journey into a Futuristic Past”
Basim Magdy at the Deutsche Bank KunstHalle

“The Stars Were Aligned for a Century of New Beginnings” is the title of the first large institutional exhibition of Basim Magdy at the Deutsche Bank KunstHalle. The press is enthusiastic about the films, slide installations, and works on paper of the “Artist of the Year” 2016.
“He is not interested in clarity,” writes Amelia Wischnewski in her portrait of Basim Magdy for the magazine art. “The slick, graphic style of his paintings and the cheerful yellow, blue, and pink shades look inviting, as thought he simply wants to entertain viewers. A trap. Magdy takes the seriousness out of themes such as war, loss, and death through the use of vivid color. He applies complex titles to the works like an additional layer. They are mysterious and funny, and read like short stories. The desire to cause confusion is palpable.” This confusion lies entirely in the artist’s intention, as he explains in an extensive interview with the Internet art platform Bpigs. “I try to look at things from an unusual point of view, not the way you would see these things or understand these images at first glance. I try to present alternative understanding of things.”

Again and again, journalists emphasize the tension between the bright-colored surfaces and the existential themes of his paintings. In kunst:art, Karolina Wrobel writes: “Helplessness – a process that society tries to counteract with future concepts – culminates in Basim Magdy’s work not in a monochromatic wasteland, but in exhilarating color.” Museumreport writes: “With the psychedelic colors in his paintings and montages, the artist questions collective utopias.” Für Irmgard Berner from Berliner Zeitung, Magdy’s works are akin to “fleeting narratives that overlay one another, oscillate, and that he – perhaps hopefully after all – resolves in all spectral colors.” In Kunstzeitung, Andrea Hilgenstock speaks of an “imaginary journey into a futuristic past,” while in Blouin Artinfo Natalia Masewicz remarks: “In his works the artist, who was born in Egypt in 1977 and now lives in Basel and Cairo, deals with the hypothesis that society’s obsession with the future today is inextricably linked to its inability to reconcile itself with the past.” Marie Kaiser, who in her show called “Art aber fair” on Radio Eins presents an important Berlin exhibition each week, sums up her impressions thus: “No matter whether Magdy makes films, paintings, or photos, he tells us stories about the future that also enable us to view the present very critically – and does so without compromising the humor.”

“Basim Magdy spreads out melancholy realms before viewers,” writes Daniel Völzke in Monopol, “profound and cryptic.” His “films are like dreams: collages of fragments of memory, unconnected yet combined in meaningful ways.” And Claudia Wahjudi avers in tip: “His films are essays about the inability of deviating from old paths. (…) End time romanticism does not prevail here. It is Magdy’s literary humor and the gap between text and image that enable us to understand relations – for example, about how short-lived power is.”  Kulturnews refers to the current situation in Magdy’s home region: “Many bemoan the relapse of Middle Eastern societies after the short Arab Spring to civil war and counter revolution, yet we repeatedly hear about things that give us reason to hope. For example, the art of the Egyptian Basim Magdy: While it is certainly political, it is pervaded by subtle humor and irony that expel any fanaticism.”

“The Egyptian artist positions himself as an admonisher, although this can be overlooked given the light flow of his paintings,” writes Nicola Kuhn in Tagesspiegel. “Everyone feels immediately that something is very wrong in this century of new beginnings.” And Jochen Stöckmann from Deutschlandradio Kultur stresses the lasting impact of Magdy’s image-text combinations. They “unsettle our view of reality, a reality that is supposedly devoid of alternatives. (…) Thus Magdy stokes the imagination, creates images that stick in memory for days or even weeks, that continue to have an impact, that take on a life of their own.”