Readers might recall that we were impressed with Alchemy’s concept of a cross between a lounge, bar and restaurant. (Did we mention the Bloody Marys?) One year later, the place is still experimenting, to our benefit, on what it can achieve. Most recently, it has become an art space that gives artists the chance for their work to be displayed.
“This project began with artists who were affiliated with Alchemy, like those who had participated in making the place into what it is today,” said Hashem El-Seify, marketing executive for the Cairo Jazz Club, which operates Alchemy.
“We started with people like Nathan Doss who designed the masks at Alchemy and Thaer Jerab who [created] the menu. Both of them are based in Egypt,” he added. El-Seify said that the project then grew to include artists from different backgrounds, though not based on a particular set of criteria.
Each artist is featured for one month, with a Saturday event to kick off the exhibition. This month’s artist is Hanan Ghanem, whose vivid, sensual paintings lined the walls of Alchemy last Saturday.
Ghanem’s art focuses on women and the female form; all of the paintings emphasised the female form in one way or another, specifically eyes, through the vibrant and audacious use of colour.
“The paintings were inspired by women’s role in the uprising and you can see that they all have a certain pride to them, despite their melancholy. There is a spirit of defiance and rebellion; you can see it in their eyes,” said Ghanem.
Ghanem said she was approached by Alchemy when they saw her work online: “I had to make some concessions in terms of what I could show because of size restrictions, but I think it’s a very good thing to have art displayed here. It is good to have art displayed everywhere, even sporting clubs.”
Though the paintings were well-displayed, a curious artistic choice on Alchemy’s part was to have two paintings that were not by Ghanem hang close to the entrance, to our left as we came in. The paintings were quite big and were stylistically and thematically very different from Ghanem’s.
Perhaps it is also worth mentioning that alongside the new possibilities for displaying art, Alchemy is experimenting with its food: “We are making some changes to the menu to better reflect our clientele. We are focusing on food that will go better with clients who come to drink,” said El-Seify.
As for Ghanem and her future projects, she said her source of inspiration was unlikely to change: “I want my work to reach all kinds of women. I will continue to work with this inspiration in mind and see where these women take me.”