The idea of tragedy and comedy started with theatrical performances of Ancient Greece. The ending was the telling distinction between the two dramatic genres. In a tragedy, death was often present while a comedy would end in a ludicrous and funny way. The concept of clowns has been around for centuries in one form or another. Some describe a court jester as a clown while others argue that they are two different things. However, the lines between tragedies and comedies soon blurred and we saw court jesters make appearances in tragedies like Yorick in Hamlet. It is believed that the earliest clown was documented in ancient Egypt.
Omar El Nagdi found his latest inspiration in the subject of the clown as both a figure of comedy and tragedy and his latest collection is entitled “The Clown: Laughing and Crying”. He writes: “Can I draw your face / yes, you can / but you cannot draw my deep inner self, like the sea inside it / have you ever heard the sound of my old cries / when I was born the first time / its echo over rocks / mountain peaks and valleys / littered over the waves of the sea / and collided in dark lonely nights / I saw your dulled face, as melted snow / your rosy cheeks / your erased eyelashes / and your piercing eyes / led my soul to / wonders of creation.”
The clown becomes an external manifestation of hidden emotions that no one can decipher. In the paintings, clowns with split faces were often apparent, juggling life rather than just tennis balls. They stand undecided and unsure of their existence as they are torn between society’s expectations and their own inner turmoil.
The use of gold was dominant in the paintings and even though the paintings address a heavy subject, the clowns’ faces are always friendly and inviting. The clowns transfer their own misery and struggle into the gold, shimmering lights of optimism. They do not internalise the pain, but transform it into something better, which helps both them and the onlookers.
The painting “Clown on Stairs” featured an innocent-looking clown trying to climb a wooden ladder, with one foot on a water glass and the other on a wobbly table. The clown has two faces and his hands are trying to balance the weight of his challenge. The most appealing aspect of the painting is the child-like features of the clown and the pastel colours used to denote his struggle.
Walking through the exhibition was a delightful experience which we highly recommend as a great way to unwind after a hard day’s work. The exhibition continues till 16 January at Picasso Art Gallery in Zamalek.