CAIRO.- One would expect to see him jubilantly arriving to the opening of his own show with a double flip on a skateboard.
Instead, I spent thirty minutes asking guests of his whereabouts until I found him quietly chatting to his friends just outside the gallery entrance.
A gentle young man with a poetic dreamy gaze, more Cat Stevens than Tony Hawk, very content to take backstage on his own opening night and let the works on display speak for themselves until he is prompted to offer an explanation by a fascinated onlooker.
This is his second solo show at Mashrabia Gallery and his third in Cairo since 2010.
A self-taught artist, an outsider who has been drawing for as long as he can remember , he spent his formative years moving from one country to another because of his fathers professional appointments.
Abdel Mohsen has kept an art journal from the time he was a teenager until three years after graduating from college. These are very personal and private diaries, self-reflective in many ways but also a repository of his own visual thoughts, ideas and dreams. To date he has about twenty personal sketchbooks, and like all artists who keep an art journal he has also suffered the heartbreak of losing one on a bus trip; by the time he got home he was frantically looking for it but it was too late.
At some point after high school he toyed with the idea of going back to Amsterdam, a place he associated with fond childhood memories, to pursue university studies in Fine Arts or film-making but neither materialized. Instead, he stayed in Cairo where he half-heartedly completed a degree in Mass Communication in 2006. Not a very inspiring experience, in fact more suffocating than informative , it prompted him to take a protracted period of time off to gather his thoughts before he embarked on a career in journalism.
Unabatedly, he kept up his art journaling, sketching, drawing, writing, doodling, until one fine day he decided to draw on a box of cereal, then on another box, then a piece of cardboard which eventually led to his first body of drawings and the cardboard series.
This Is a Dream Come True is a body of twenty seven works, ranging in size from 30 cm x 40cm all the way to 250 cm x 90cm, all executed in 2013, using acrylic, watercolour and ink on reclaimed cardboard boxes. Everything in life is cyclical and recycled, our history, our experiences, our discoveries, our theories
I used spread-out cardboard boxes displayed without framing in their raw and unconventional state. I wanted to give them that feeling of something prosaic that you happen upon, something that gives the feeling of broken history, a broken process that re-emerges in a new and fresh way to tell a story that is more hopeful and coherent. The back of the box is as important as the front; all the artworks on display have something written or drawn on the back; a poem, a sketch which is directly related to the front of the work.
I work best at night, specifically after midnight, and I work on several pieces simultaneously. I may then leave them for a number of days or weeks and revisit and rework them again.
Abdel Mohsen is a natural draughtsman and has an incredibly spontaneous expression rendered through a dynamic line and layers of glazes of acrylic and watercolour washes. He has no regrets whatsoever for not formally studying art and rather enjoys the freedom of making it intuitively and spontaneously without the constraints of dogmas and art theories.
When asked about the choice of this title for an exhibition he answered :its a long story but in a nutshell it is about the process of anything starting from an idea then to its reaching consciousness and from there on progressing to the physicality of it and onto the consequences of its materialization. It is almost like dreaming an idea and seeing it come to fruition in an unfolding process.
When I asked him about plans for the future he replied: one more cardboard series for completion and a sort of closure, some music and maybe videos and of course keeping up the sketchbooks !
This is a Dream Come True is currently on show at Mashrabia Gallery of Contemporary Art in Cairo and concludes on the 17th of November 2013.