«Taha Hussein»… the Boast of El-Wechahi and His Sadness.
For El-Wechahi, may be none of his statues had such rank which «Taha Hussein»
(Figure no. 56) statue had. Also perhaps none of them was his boast and source of
sadness at the same time as «Taha Hussein» statue was. May be El-Wechahi had
never complained nor appealed, had never made an effort nor raged, had never
defended nor attacked as he did, in order to bring «Taha Hussein» statue to light.
Wechahi started to achieve this wonderful statue in 1995 according to an official
commission from the minister of culture – the artist Farouk Hosny at that time. But
there were many obstacles which prevented the statue project from being
accomplished, specifically without finishing the stage of bronze casting. So the
statue was confined to Wechahi’s studio for nineteen years until its release for the
first time in a display, accompanying this study, at Ofok Gallery 2014.
«Taha Hussein», for being famous statue, did not despair and its creative artist did
not either. It could not profit from the celebrity of its two owners: El-Wechahi and
Taha Hussein, nor did it from the praise of writers or laud of critics. All this did not
accelerate its achievement nor did stimulate the supporters or decision makers to
save the statue from clutches of futility.
(56)Wechahi, Statue of “Taha Hussein”, Industrial fibers – Polyester, 290×130×230cm, 1995
However, these bitter deeds did not weaken Wechahi’s strength, on the contrary; he showed great determination to save «Taha Hussein» from the heavy clouds of disregard. He kept on calling, in all forums, for saving this unique piece from loss, clinging to hope and stubbornness, sticking to his strong opinion.
But unfortunately, Wechahi passed away without seeing «Taha Hussein» displayed in an official show or a public space. The one, who examines «Taha Hussein» statue, realizes Wechahi’s philosophy and discovers most of his art features, in addition to his performance style and artistic method.
This statue enables the recipient to be familiar with the plastic world of El-Wechahi, even if they have not seen any of Wechahi’s works except it. In «Taha Hussein» we find ourselves in front of rare combination of antitheses which we have mentioned before extensively. We see duality of figuration and abstraction existing in this unique integrative association between the abstract value of lines on the surfaces of the block and the features of The Dean of Arabic Literature, in which El-Wechahi emptied completely the eye sockets.
The dialectic of the silent screaming is manifested in «Taha Hussein». We see the torso of the Dean bends forward as if he is about to flounce, resting his left hand on the seat of the chair. The sinews of his right hand trembled with the intent to start an action while his clothes clung to the chair. He seeks help from his torso which aspires to penetrate the sky, as a substitute for the shortness of his feet (Figure no.57). In «Taha Hussein» there is a small presence of generation and fade duality, shown in the succession of the arched voids, which surrounded the torso back and forth. They exist in the gaps between the arms and the body, between the two legs on the one hand, and between the legs and the chair on the other, in addition to those which are between the legs of the chair itself.
Moreover, these arced voids extend along the back of the chair until they end in the louver which looks like the aureole of saints, located behind the head of «Conqueror of Darkness». Besides, there are curved lines which are generating along the limbs and torso, shortening the folds of clothes (Figure no. 58).
(57)Statue of “Taha Hussein” (58)A detailed of the Statue of “Taha Hussein”
Centralization of the Female / the Mother
Who looks at the whole production of El-Wechahi, discovers that there is a special central presence of the female on levels of subjects and forms. This invites to meditate such presence and clarify its characteristics, particularly works where the female appears as a mother to show an old deprivation which has never been diminished in the psychological and artistic formation of Wechahi.
That necessitates that we retain here his phrase which we have analyzed before in paragraph «Duality of Confidence - Fear … Discourse of the Beginnings». This phrase had been stated in a discourse in a seminar of Cairo International Book Fair 2009, mentioned before, when he replied to a woman, administrator in Ministry of Education, who was talking about the role of school in discovering the artistic talents.
At the beginning, Wechahi greeted her as a mother saying: «The mother has a serious role in the patriarchal society where we live, she is who brings up. But man is just a contributing factor.» Here, El-Weshahi’s works undertake to interpret this phrase and to confirm its tenor to the maximum extent. This happens when we display the works where the female plays the role of great heroism, and also when we deal with the other works where the absolute presence of female has a significant influence on shapes and sentimental feelings.
The one, who meditates «Amira» statue, has nothing to do except surrendering to the invasion of hugging and tranquility feelings. These feelings come out of depths of the wife/ mother model, when she becomes a refuge and a support by which the man/ the creative restores the safety of the first womb, as well as the protection of mother bosom.
We can observe both of them with a visual rove inside the spaces of the affectionate cave which includes the composition of this important sculpture. Then, who can omit the great female presence which oozes from «The Queen» statue? And who can even omit the meaning of the title itself, as the female becomes a ruler, ascending the throne of sentiment? Who can pass over the continuing presence of the female features in «The 20th Century Human» statue? Or even not to pay attention to the amazing mixture between female features and the male ones especially in the face and the head, in addition to the effect of these female features on the proportions of the torso itself.
As if the «sash» repays consideration to the female entity through presenting it to incarnate the meaning of the inclusive humanity, where there is no difference between male and female in this vague century. Also who can put aside statue of «Seated Girl» which overflows with intimations of adolescence and sufferings of youth stage? Or who disregards «Attempt to Find Balance» (No. 1) filled with melodies of life dance? Nothing can incarnate the female joy energy of that statue except the statue of «The 17th – Year - Old Girl» which its female really breaks in the space of life with her prominent chest, yearning for strut, showing her charms.
Is it possible that a recipient can not intuit the hugging moment of the nature with the female›s beauty in statue «The Woman and the Sea»? Who can not fall in capture of vows which the female wisdom, flowing out from the «Overlooking» statue, tries to find out? And if we could not notice all these things and this is almost impossible, how can we ignore the beauty of the mother model, that kind and guide person in the statue of «The First Step», the wellspring of the overflowing joy in statue «Mother and Her Child on Her Waist»? Or how do not we pay attention to the meaning existing in statue «The Bridge of Life»? In this statue the male / the child is stepping reassuringly on his first female, his guiding mother. In spite of the magnitude of all these sculptures and their essential role in establishing the female/ mother model inside Wechahi’s world, they may not declare directly what Wechahi spoke out frankly through his discourse with the woman teacher in that mentioned seminar as that missing wonderful statue «Woman and Man» declares.
In such statue the female entity is boasting of owe of its gigantism. This pretty structure with female features is facing the limited presence of male entity which seems as a parasitic entity climbing this fertile structure. As if Wechahi is summarizing his unique opinion about man in comparison with the woman: «just a contributing factor». The strange thing is that most of writers who have criticized Wechahi’s works do not pay attention to this despotic centralization of female / mother model in Wechahi’s world.
Moreover, there are some of them who deny this centralization and its entire existence. This is what we can see in one of the texts of the experienced critic Izz al Din Najib, where he passed briefly a comment on the whole production of Wechahi. This text is titled «El-Wechahi a Tense Tune on Guitar of Era» published in 9th of November, 2001 among some publications of Fine Arts Sector.
In the mentioned text, Mr. Izz al Din Najib says: «On the other side of missing the woman or the female existence in the sculpture world of El-Wechahi, we observe the prevalence of the male existence to the extent of concentrating on him organically…»!
Thus, Mr. Najib topples this despotic centralization of female from El-Wechahi world, deleting her to the extent that – as in his view- she becomes (missing existence) in this world! Actually, this opinion astonishes us, because it lacks the slightest justifications or evidences supporting it. Besides, it overthrows some of the most significant works of El-Wechahi where he clarifies the woman world and also by them he dived into essence of female. But the critic’s perspective really erased these works; making them a lost paradise from an imaginary world truly unrelated to El-Wechahi’s which is alleged to include what Mr. Najib calls: «prevalence of the male existence.»
From this may be arise the importance of taking in consideration the vision of the originative critic Mahmoud Baksheesh when he addressed the female presence in one of the considerable works of Wechahi by making a comparison between the statue «Overlooking» – or «Zarkaa Al Yamama», statue of «Khamsin» by the sculptor Mukhtar and statue of Greek «Samothrace» in one of the chapters of the book - mentioned before- «Searching for National Features».
This chapter, with an expressive title «The Woman Is an Aesthetic Exciter», confirms to us that the female was not a (missing existence) in Wechahi’s world, but she was a despotic central presence which drew a lot of essential landmarks in the map of this creative artist.
Conduits of Unconscious and Mazes of Feelings
The famous spaces that become inextricable characteristic of El-Weshahi’s statues personality were not just a visual controversy inside its distinguished structural layout. They were not only in the contradictory dual presence of generation and fade values and overlap of physics and metaphysics in birth and death cycle, a study treated before in detail, but we can say reassuringly that these spaces played the role of the space incarnation for sentimental catharsis.
This happens when the accumulations of deep emotions and repressed feelings are displaced to find conduits for themselves to flow outside the depths of the unconscious. Then, their effects come successively through mazes of feelings until they release on the sculptural surfaces and sizes.
By this time, they declare the great moment of communication between the recipient and the creative artist when they meet each other on a bridge paved by visual symbols, fenced by collective humanist heritage of concepts, feelings and the multilevel meanings.
El-Wechahi is not like the other artists who were influenced – from east and west- by the general approach of Henry Moore. He did not stop only, as they did, to examine the form of space in block, but he moved to high levels of molding and thinking, by which the space, overlapped with the material, become a mirror to receive sparkles of unconscious and also a means to communicate again with this unconscious, plus affecting it.
This is what Wechahi sums up as a point of view which he declared in his honoring ceremony at the Society of Fine Arts Lovers on January, 22nd, 2011, that the sculpture differs in receiving it from the other kinds of art, «as it knocks on unconscious».
Then he gave an example: when a simple person with limited perception sees daily a great sculpture in a square, it will -in his view- affect his unconscious and reshape anew his perceptions. In the same seminar, El-Wechahi talked about the difference between the real sculptural block and the other ones. He thinks that the real sculpture is that which makes the block able to (hug the space) instead of being swallowed by the space.
In addition, he states that the sculpture is based on thought and that the sculptor has an influence on the society and on the sentiment and intellect of the recipient through his piece. Besides, the sculptor’s role exceeds the idea of being for «decoration». For this, it seems to him that the sculptors are few in this world just like saints, philosophers and geniuses.
Once again Wechahi sheds more light on other aspects - psychological and visual ones- of these complex relations in his sculptural world. In the program directed by Fatma El Hag, he said about his way of performance: «I do not work according to intentional method, I live in the four dimensions- among them the temporal dimension- where I flow and then I meditate what I have done to arrange it, based on what I have learned about man.
My work is the production of unconscious after extracting my cultural and sentimental experiences. I have reached this after training to evoke the unconscious easily. I do not control to excess the outputs of my unconscious but at the same time I do not leave them free without regulation. » By this, may be it becomes clear the significance of some thoughts which El-Wechahi wrote down in some of his papers. He says: «The sculptor is the legitimate owner of the space. » Cairo 1979.
Moreover, perhaps additional meanings are clarified to his phrase in which he described one of his famous works saying: «When a block invades another one, what happens? Hypothetical for work (Attempt to Find Balance) Cairo, 1987.
Renewable Research and Familiarity with Techniques
Through Wechahi’s works mentioned in this study, through our analysis to many of their characteristics and the circumstances of their production, emerge the variety of Wechahi’s performance methods and his familiarity with the different techniques required to use the most of the common sculptural materials. He succeeded in extracting and surfacing the aesthetic values of such materials and benefited from them in order to increase his capabilities of expression and to diversify his styles.
Wechahi was not from those artists who adhere to a particular approach, nor one of those who permit to one material to dominate their production, apart from his nature to renew and diversify. He practiced wood carving, plaster, artificial stone, granite, burnt clay, hammered copper, direct carving in cement, iron, pebbles, bronze casting, polyester, in addition to experimentation with wire and tin.
Wechahi was fully aware of his choices. Once he starts to sculpt one of his statues, he decides what kind of material he will use, according to his design and the theme of the artwork. This is what he stated in the mentioned program: «In my work, the experience, the design and the composition are that which decide to choose a specific material. I do not comply with the power of material because it has an ascendancy that may subdue the artist and keep him away from his aims.»
In the same program he shed more light on this aware method according to which he prepares for his works and chooses their materials, he says: «I do not work for national occasions nor do I sculpt a sculpture based on reports. I predict, overlook, because the role of the creative artist is to find paths of hope, light and dream in future. This is the overlooking. But those who are able to present reports are numerous.» This agrees totally with another phrase which he used to say: «Always there are: pioneers, improvers and followers.» The material was easy to shape in Wechahi’s hand and it was one of his tools.
Therefore, the form was a language of thinking, which he combines its gem to express the hidden meanings. This motivates us to meditate again one of his thoughts in which he says: «Now I can say that I am about to think by the language of form.» Madrid 1978.
During the seventies, Wechahi searched for another theme of the relationships between figuration and abstraction. It is a trend that exchanging its position with the features of the mentioned stage, during that period. This trend has been generally characterized with trying to take advantage of the abstract values, to intensify the aesthetic and structural relations inherent in the human anatomical structure taken by the El-Weshahi as an essential starting point for most of his sculptures at the time, in addition to their equals of other beings which are evident specifically through the following artworks: “The Owl” 1971 (Figure 44), “A Tribute to the Ancient Egyptian Cat” 1972, “Horse” 1972 (Figure 45), “Vanna” 1973 (Figure 46), “The Christ” 1973 (Figure 47), “The Queen” 1973 (Figure 48), and “The Silence” 1975, as well as most of the portraiture sculptures, which were produced during that period and previously analyzed.
(44)Wechahi, Statue of “The Owl”, Burnt Clay, (45) Wechahi, Statue of “Horse”, Bronze, 1972
32×15× 20cm, Milan, Italy, 1971
(46)Wechahi, Statue of “Vanna”, Burnt Clay, 57×22.5× 26cm, Rome, Italy, 1973 (47)Wechahi, Statue of “The Christ”, Bronze, 40×10×27cm, Vatican, Italy, 1973
Wechahi is one of the few artists who have mastered (digesting) a part of the references to re-visualize its pureness and essence in a combination of harmonic homogeneous composition. This combination goes through their subjective vision and its prevalence permeates their composition and imagination pores. Therefore, their creativity is crowned by a corona of the creative communication shine and their experiences are firmed with a solid foundation of reference sequence.
The renewal features which Wechahi inscribed on the Egyptian sculpture cannot be understood under any circumstances. In addition, you cannot surround the general framework of his experience nor recognize the right context of Wechahi’s artwork gradual evolution without realizing the basic references, which fed his fertile imagination and formed the initial channels of his unique sculptural vision. Wechahi references are including number of the modern sculptural approaches the renewal features which El-Wechahi inscribed on the Egyptian sculpture cannot be understood under any circumstances.
In addition, you cannot surround the general framework of his experience nor recognize the right context of Wechahi’s artwork gradual evolution without realizing the basic references that fed his fertile imagination and formed the initial channels of his unique sculptural vision. Wechahi references are including number of the modern sculptural approaches that changed the world sculpture path by a group of unequaled sculptors who numbered within the marks of history of modern art. Ernst Barlach, German expressionist sculptor (1870 – 1938), artworks are in the forefront of the modern sculptural references which burst with its potential energy in the early Wechahi experiences.
Ernst Barlach precedes El-Wechahi by harnessing the maximum of creativity energy figuring the human calamities, seizing the suffer pulses and installing it in blocks full of pain and overflowing misery. The effect of Barlach presence can be sensed in “The Cold” and “Martyr of Denshawai” statues, previously mentioned. It can be recognized when comparing the first statue “The Cold” with number of Barlach similar artworks, which embodied the sorrows of displaced and destitute such as “Frieze of the Listeners” (Figure 5), sculpted from wood during the period between 1930 and 1935.
Note that one of Wechahi’s varieties of “The Cold” statue is
also from wood. Barlach elongate character treatment that
has increased the impact of the character thinness and the
misery condition, reverberating in the exaggerated
elongate lean body of El-Weshahi’s statue, besides, the
direct presence of the idea of (the cold) at Barlach third
statue – on the right – of the group of statues mentioned.
(5) Ernst Barlach, Statue of “Frieze of the Listeners”, Wood 1930 : 1935
In addition to many gestures of hands and heads which responded to the kinetic design of the group. Wechahi will later remind us with them in more violent and expressive way in the movement of the hero of his statue that bends on himself to avoid frost climatic and unruly psychological onslaught.
“The Beggar” the bronze statue (Figure 6) produced by Barlach almost in 1930 stimulates us to compare
number of his expressive and constructional motives with El-Wechahi parallel artworks, “Martyr of
Denshawai”, his unique graduation project. Starting from the jerky extension of the instep of the beggar,
Barlach confirmed disability of the hero of his statue and the inability to go on foot. This previously
took a different expressive and symbolic dimension at Wechahi’s artworks as it played a crucial role
to delude us that the statue is starting his remarkable flight. It is defying the gravity although it’s a
Moreover, it spiritually refers to the crucified Christ posture that previously inspired Barlach especially if
models of Gothic sculpture in Germany are reviewed. Scenes of the crucifixion of Christ are treated
almost in a full pose of the kinetic posture of Barlach beggar. The role of the crutches in the formation of
Barlach statue and their relation with the narrow threshold are miserable fulcrum for his paralyzed hero.
The similar can be found in the design of the execution low round table below El-Wechahi martyr so its
ground presence is dwindling versus its heavenly ascension. His arms play the role of the phantom link
in the smooth optical line from the statue shoulder to lower edge of the low round table.
(6) Ernst Barlach, statue of“The Beggar”, Bronze
Instead, Barlach statue crutches are linked and closely cohered to the beggar arms and his ground fulcrum. In addition, the role the Barlach beggar arms play to confirm the delusion of starting moving forward and to express the suffer stress of the movement connection, corresponds exactly to the whisperer symbolic role that has been mentioned in the analysis of Wechahi martyr when referring to the interactive conversational role in summarizing the dying conflict of the hero of the statue.
However, Barlach exaggerates the compression of the neck features in his statue to ensure the indication of the extent of fatigue of shoulders holding the statue block and their presence as essential cores of movement, Wechahi, the opposite of his predecessor, exaggerates the length of the neck proportion to confirm the presence of this noble organ which elongates with honor of shaking and sagging influence from the hangman’s rope. Despite the two artist methods contradict apparently, Barlach neck compression and Wechahi elongation, the similarity in both cases is in the smart investment for this organ which both, Barlach and Wechahi, have benefited from the deep refinement and intelligent significant function which has lack of presence in most sculptor artworks.
Then the reference of the Romanian sculptor Constantin Brancusi (1876 – 1957) comes to take off a bit of its glory regenerative attributes on a part of Wechahi’s artworks and to confirm his erudition since its early beginnings to the various images of the international sculptural scene and his deep understanding of the experience essences of the master revivalists. The more particularly characteristics of Wechahi stylistic decency appear at his extraordinary ability showed through the inherent varieties on specific structural and formative values which are like visual and spatial habits still stuck to the world of Brancusi sculptures until it became axioms of classification that come into mind once the name of Brancusi is mentioned.
The most important Brancusi habits are the values of elongation, height, agility, smooth of the sculptured surface, the mass balance over a small base, flowing up in the space and smooth, all of which are preoccupied with, El-Wechahi after Brancusi readapting them for his private visions and incorporated them within his distinctive stylistic collection. These values disclose clearly about themselves when recalling a number of El-Wechahi famous artworks including “The Cold” and “Martyr of Denshawai” statues that are flowing in the space, elongated and agile.
When Jesus, according to the Christian belief, cried out with a loud voice above his cross immediately before leaving his earthly temple and ascending into Heaven, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? (Matthew 27:46, New King James Version), then his head hanged down on his shoulder which was repeated for thousands of times in the Christian iconography and was recalled by the masters of painting and sculpture through ages.
Wechahi adopted from this significant iconography two structural features. The first was the extended feet as the same form in all the statues and paintings of the crucified Jesus. And the second feature was the hanging head after he intentionally elongated the neck more than the human anatomical proportion as an eloquent symbol of the hanging. Was Wechahi in The Martyr of Denshawai portraying a personal/psychic self-image? Did he choose that subject and accomplish it as such to form a sculptural model of his own legend?, so the ascending of the persecuted martyr was raising him away from this mean world that never stopped to oppress him and violate his rights, and eventually killed him. In the picture, the young man, Wechahi, was contemplating his statue in an upward look.
His upturned head harmonized with the hanging head of his martyr and the tension in his palm hand toned with the tension in the palm hand of the floating corpse. Scrutinizing that picture induced us to conclusions bringing forward the ideas of reincarnation, spiritual subtraction, and exploration of the innermost secrets of the soul on the mirror’s surface, however, it’s a three-dimensional mirror in which the image of the man/ creator was embodied, governed by aesthetic requirements, their rules were not dissociated from the imperatives of the psychological existence of the knowledgeable-self that chose to depict the pains in creative artworks that revealed as much as they gratified and hurt as much as they delighted.
A polyester copy of the statue is currently present in the National Museum of Denshawai. The duality of confidence/fear kept revealing itself, not only in Wechahi’s works and his life obsessions, but also in his controversial stances that always showed his amazing ability to surprise his interlocutors with irrefutable statements and definitive answers, ending the way for urging and altercation. In these situations, Wechahi’s self-confidence acquired an aura of outright rebellion against the rigid social stereotypes and the ready-made ideas adopted by most of those surrounding him in his society. In his conversations with them, he deliberately shocked them with his non-traditional answers announcing his confident rebellion against their normal life styles.
However, at the same time, they were disclosing his (frightening) pain in consequence of their desperate attempts to remind him that, at a stage of his life, he was not able to achieve financial success and his incapability of keeping pacing with those working in non-creative professions in building wealth. This was reflected when he described his shock, at his honoring ceremony at the Society of Fine Arts Lovers, as after returning from his seven-year journey to Europe, all his friends and acquaintances kept asking him particular questions, like “Have you got married or not?”, “Have you bought a car or not?”, “Have you received the doctorate or not?”, then after replying all their questions with negative answers they ask him: “ So what were you doing there?”, he answered spontaneously: “I was sculpting”.
Manifestations of Wechahi’s self-confidence not only stopped at the prospect of rebellion and, therefore, were not a reaction to avoid social fears or a psychological defense mechanism to dispel absurdity of intolerable persons, but also they exceeded rebellion to challenge prospect. This reinterprets the conditions of sculpting “The Impossible Jump” (Figure no. 4). It was made of hammered copper. He chose to participate with it in the International Biennial of Sport in Barcelona in 1975.
This statue was a challenge to Wechahi’s circumstances at that
time as he was destitute having no way to start over getting
money, so he bet on making an (Impossible) statue - as he said -
and winning the Biennial’s prize to start, with the prize money, his
life’s journey again.
Moreover, for the same reason, he refused to dedicate it, after
winning, to the Museum of Modern Art in Paris as in accordance
with the museum’s terms and conditions; the dedication must be
free. Thus, he sacrificed the glory of the museum for the sake
of building up and enriching his artistic armory. In the same
context, context of the argumentative relation between challenge
and fear of failure, the reason behind his decision to return from
Europe to Egypt was clarified.
(4) Wechahi, Statue of “The Impossible Jump”, Hammered Copper, 1975
After deciding to never come back, he changed his mind because of his disinclination to the Western star making strategy and his feeling about their falseness what drove him to change the course of his aspiration towards his homeland, choosing to face the pressing local circumstances then, rather than pursuing the illusions of the international renown.
Throughout his life, Wechahi was perfectly consistent with his beliefs, taking the challenge and rebellion mechanisms as tools to express his confidence in his exceptional abilities and shield to dispel his inner fears from what might threat his creative-self. That is noted in his repeated campaigns on many new phenomena arising in the plastic arts medium during his last years. He believed that these phenomena stultified the importance of sculpture, according to his beliefs.
It can be seen from his aforementioned discourse at a seminar at the International Book Fair, when he addressed to the issue of what he called big businessmen (renting) sculptors to establish sculptural forums with profitable return.
However, in either taking his fateful decisions or going into his argumentative fights, Wechahi was neither forced nor compelled. He was never one of those who launched aggressive campaigns to compensate lost dreams or seek a cure for worries of a scattered success. He rather took his bold decisions and went into his big fights, reinforced with remarkable record of successes and self-realization; by that time he had cemented his significant status in the Egyptian sculptural landscape, bolstered with an array of local and international awards, and boastful with his technical innovations and his several exceptional treatments which have been the polestar of his followers since they saw the light of day till now.
This may explain many of his famous quotes that widely floated around among his acquaintances and followers. The best indication on his quotes is his well-known statement: “I do not have the luxury of being pessimistic. I’m doomed to hope, not to despair”. This statement is well expressed and well explained, needs neither explanation nor interpretation. It is closely linked with his written statement on November 9th, 2000, revealing the importance of art of sculpture for him, as Wechahi said: “I practice sculpture as an antibiotic in order to protect my humanity for more than twenty years”. To this extent the art of sculpture was for El-Wechahi an existential weapon to preserve his human entity and maintain a glimmer of hope for his soul.
4- Soar and Restraint… Effort and Exertion in Balance Textile.
Among the important characteristics of Wechahi’s works, through which emerges the effect of the sentimental aspect is that his works have amazing charge of liberation energy. This energy was shown through some structural features which have become definite signs of El-Wechahi’s sculptural style.
What comes at the forefront of these features is the ability of these works to give us illusion of their liberation from gravity capture. Such feature has given his sculptures exceptional uniqueness. The late critic Mahmoud Baksheesh summarized eloquently the art of El-Wechahi by describing it with «The Flying Sculpture», explaining its characteristics in a complete chapter- has the same title - of his important book «Searching for National Features» published by Dar El Hilal.
This liberation rebelling against the grip of gravity, affects undoubtedly on realization of the recipient referring him hiddenly to the idea of (liberation of spirit from burdens of body) and inspiring him deeply to associations of this idea from universal phenomena which their interpretation tends to the spirit world more than the clear answers which could be found in laws of material world.
The strange thing here is that this feature Wechahi’s works is closely linked to some unique geological phenomena which his native land Egypt abound with. This becomes obvious once we compare between the forms of his sculptures blocks-in which the weight centers have been reversed, the base has become a summit and vice versa - and the singular rocks abundant in the most wonder geological area in Egypt: «The White Desert» which was declared a nature reserve in 2002, located just 45 kilometers to north of the Farafra Oasis in New Valley (El Wadi El Gadid) governorate situated approximately 500 kilometers from Cairo.
It was named «The White Desert» (The woman And the sea) because the white color covers most of its land for the widespread cretaceous rocks which have many formations caused by the blowing of sandstorms, giving the emergence of forms which one could think that they are some of El-Wechahi’s sculptures displayed in such space of open museum (Figure no. 54, 55).
(54)Wechahi, Statue of “The Woman and the Sea”, Direct Wax, 1972 (55) Wechahi, Statue of “The Woman and the Sea”, Polyester, 130cm height, 1992
However, this liberation itself doesn’t come in free context inside Wechahi’s world without controls or restraints, but this liberation gets engaged in dialectical relation with what the conditions of the blocks corporeal existence impose, and also with what the structural material requires - as it is primarily aesthetic presence - so as to be created a type of conversational tension which is mutual between the rashness of liberation latent in formation adventures, and balance necessities , regarding conditions of fulcrum and balance between sizes and spaces.
At the end, all this creates a general sense surrounding Wechahi’s sculptures that inspires in the recipient that there is a trapped energy of exertion. This energy is looking for the moment of release from the grip of these sculptures in order to show the great effort a shackled spirit makes, spirit tends much to rebel, searching for an opportunity to slough from the skin of the solid material.
This characteristic remained connected to the features of El-Wechahi’s works from the very beginning, as this is what we see clearly - as we have mentioned before – in his statue «The Martyr of Denshawai» where we feel the great exertion on its rectangular block.
This exertion is about to liberate it from its material requirements, changing it to transparent spiritual existence - which is about to realize its salvation after making the maximum effort – but in a shape which is boasting of its balance and equilibrium. From this angle, we find works in which this dialectical duality appears, such as: «The Impossible Jump» whose exceptional formation is about to explode under pressure of effort and exertion, soaring a restrained soar in space where the sculpture keeps balance without leaving its material existence which we are looking for the end of its movement.
In addition, statue of «The Pigeon» incarnates the torments of alternating between soar and restraint, personifying effort and exertion in mold of pure aesthetic balance. The same thing in «The 20th Century Human» which is longing for the upcoming moment of his soar, balanced on his imminent launch point, but it is in fact the point of its restraint.
Following a set pattern, the statues: «The Scream», «Attempt to Find Balance»-with all its varieties- , «Man and Ball in the Space» and «The Woman and the Sea» (Figures no. 54, 55) come sending out, through their blocks, echoes of endless tendency to the soar which is restrained in capture of the kinetic moment, and also they have the balance which is exhausting the senses of the recipients. Thus, Wechahi’s works were a piazza of fierce controversy between dynamics and statics; also they were platforms to show tensions for jumping in womb of sobriety.
Therefore, Wechahi’s world –all of it- was a ring of struggle between temporal-spatial values of overlapping relations. Moreover, it was a space of successive departure among manifestations of harmonic antitheses.
3- Generation and Fade …Overlap of Physics and Metaphysics in Birth and Death Cycle.
In a TV program directed by Fatma El Hag, El-Wechahi says: «Art is source of vital rays, sends them to the universe to infinity.» Here, we have to stop at this statement for quite a while; it reveals one of El-Wechahi world›s aspects – world of considerable dimensions which no attention paid to in most of the critical texts which have analyzed the style of such an artist of great stature.
Also these texts did not turn to one of the most important qualities of Wechahi’s character, a quality which has disclosed itself in El-Wechahi’s unique performance, and its effects have appeared in his visions and compositions of his sculptures. Such quality is the metaphysical aspect which exists in Weshahi’s character, supporting a vital current of far reaching effect; current continued flowing through his works to confirm the importance of their sentimental and spiritual contents as well as their formal features and visual values.
El-Wechahi – as his close people know very well- was a man of firm convictions concerning the strong relationship between universe’s world and existence manifestations. These convictions were clear in different aspects: his deep certainty of the horoscope influence on the psychological formations of persons, certainty increased by his extensive reading in this field, which led him to amazing limits so as he could recognize the horoscope which the speaker belongs to, once he looks carefully at his physique and his way of speaking even if it is the first time he meets him. Besides, his wide culture in subjects of spirit and the influence of lifestyle like food, drink…etc on the artist formation. In addition to his knowledge of many systems of spiritual exercises, which he was declaring frequently their positive influence on him, helping him in developing special method of relaxation by which he was profiting when he was achieving his sculptures, through organizing the relation between conscious thinking, free association of ideas and the unconscious feelings.
El-Wechahi combined intelligently between his sentimental orientations and what he got from universal sculptural references which he adapted their teachings to his own visions, connecting their formal properties with the core of his ideas and subjects. We can see this- in particular way- through his adaptation to the heritage of Henry Moore School, based on researching the formal and structural possibilities of space in the block , so as to observe carefully the formal and space derivatives resulting from applying this method with which he reached maximum limits of surfaces reproduction, surfaces come out in succession from the inside of each other, appear and fade in a way leads to the emergence of visual cycles on which the recipient eye goes back and forth, up and down, in and out, in succession without rest, trying to control these continuing whirling relations in which the space appears from womb of block and the surface emerges from the depth.
Therefore, in the recipient, the idea of the universal cycle will generate, cycle in which its eternal movement causes the repetition of death and birth and creation of new lives from the previous old debris. Sculptures like: «The Pigeon»- variety 1972- «Amira», «The Silence» «Overlooking» 1986 (Figure no. 53) «Bird in the Space», in addition to the collection of portraits about which we have talked before.
It is enough for man to meditate on formation of each work mentioned above, and to keep track of these connected cycles of reproduction and fade, so as to find himself in the midst of great feeling of succession of creation, extinction, and repetition of death and birth cycle which is endless.
(53)Wechahi, Statue of “Overlooking”, Polyester, 70×55×47cm, Museum of Egyptian Modern Art, Cairo, 1986
The most notable is the statue of “Riyad Al-Sunbati” which was made of bronze in 1989
(Figure 23) where the dude visual impact of the presence of whisperer lower emptying
within the cheek positions, the bottom of jaw bows, on both sides of the mouth, the pleats
of the necktie, and the bow surrounding the shoulders seems to be in an exquisite
briefing change to delude the receiver with the assumptive presence of imaginary coat.
Moreover, the statues: “Franca” produced by El-Wechahi in 1972 (Figure 24) and
“Self-Portrait” in which recorded his agitation with his personal features in 1973 (Figure
25), it’s the same year which saw the treatments of his two Italian friend faces: Luigi
Ottavio (Figure 26) and Gino Scartaghiandi (Figure 27), are all made of burnt clay.
(23)Wechahi, Statue of “Riyad Al-Sunbati”, Bronze, Cairo Opera House, Cairo, 1989
(24)Wechahi, Statue of “Franca”, Burnt Clay 38 × 27 × 25 cm, (25) Wechahi, Statue of “Self-Portrait”, Burnt Clay - Direct Wax, Rome, Italy, 1973
the Egyptian Academy in Rome, Italy, 1972
(26) Wechahi, Statue of “Luigi Ottavio”, Burnt Clay, (27) Wechahi, Statue of “Gino Scartaghiandi”, Burnt Clay,
Rome, Italy, 1973 36 × 24 × 24 cm Rome, Italy, 1973
Wechahi’s statues marked an additional step that changed cavities and grooves to permeating gaps penetrating the head block and emptying its substance to connect the inner-space resulting from the emptying with the big space surrounding it which engaged in a dialectically dialogue with the head exchanging continuously the passing of light rhythms and air vibrations; its tune changes when the recipient changes his location toward the statue, and by the surrounding light circumstances.
However, El-Wechahi experiences of emptying treatments did not reach the maximum except with recourse to the overwhelming reference of the English sculptor Henry Moore (1898 - 1989) who is influenced in turn with the arts of “Maya” civilization and the features of“Toltec” era which are combined at his continued and growing research within the fusion of the mass and the space, both in the other, by removing the imaginary barriers between the solid substance and open space.
The statues only need an examine optical tracking including “The 20th Century Human” (Figure 7), “Man and Ball in the Space” (Figure8), “The Scream” (Figure 9), “Attempt to Find Balance (2)”, “Attempt to Find Balance (3)”, “The 17-year-old Girl” (Figure 10) and “Confrontation” .
(7) Wechahi, Statue of “The 20th Century Human”, Polyester, (8) Wechahi, Statue of “Man and Ball in the Space”, 150 ×60 × 305 cm,
Cairo International Conference Centre, Egypt, 1990 Bronze, 40×43×93 cm, Real Madrid Club, Madrid, Spain, 1977
(9)Wechahi, Statue of “The Scream”, Gypsum, (10) Wechahi, Statue of “The 17th – Year - Old Girl”,
Madrid, Spain, 1976 Polyester, 83cm height, 2006
They are all - especially the last six statues - varieties focused on the concept of sculptural mass penetration of the space vertically breaking the common stereotypes inherited through the continuous historical accumulation of the sculpture art. According to these stereotypes, the sculptors persevere in establishing sculptural mass balance above a fulcrum base which its dimensions exceed the dimensions of the upper parts of the statue or the bulk of the specific gravity of the material sculpted is concentrated.
Wechahi continues what Brancusi started challenging the rigid rules. The balance of his sculptures is founded on a small fulcrum base by which the mass uses as launching pulses and exercises above it the penetration of the space according to deep calculations and carefully considered designs to balance the moments imposed by the parts of the statues on each other and to achieve the difficult compatibility, between the general block stability of the sculpture and the design kinetics and twisted line agility.
In Wechahi’s early art breakthroughs, “The Cold”, (Figure no.2), his first rebellion against the academy,
the duality of confidence/fear can be perceived. Upon the request of sculptor Abd El-Qader Mokhtar,
Wechahi carved the statue, which he formed several times from gypsum and wood, while he was a
sophomore, to participate in Ibiza International Biennale and he received the second prize in sculpture.
It was also exhibited at Cairo Salon in the same year. Despite his confident rebellion at this early
academic year on the academic figuration, teachings and his resort to a form in which the
overwhelming expressionism harmonizes with soaring symbolism above the soul pains.
The ostensibly rebellious statue on the academic requirements disclosed his undeniable obsessions
about either the chosen idea or the formative and structural treatment.
In terms of the idea, it’s an untraditional choice of a student who belongs to a warm climate country in
which cold waves are not common in its seasons, rarely in its short winters,not comparable with those
Thus, the reasonable assumption is that the idea might refer to the spiritual coldness that El-Wechahi
, the brilliant student, always felt since his early years.
In terms of formation and structure, the emaciated elongated structure of a person trembling with fear
rather than trembling with cold, revealed from his suspicious lateral turn towards the back as if he
desperately embraced himself to hide his weakness and his empty soul from a bunch of hypothetical
voyeurs or to wait patiently for the best chance to uncover his obscene nakedness in an inattention of
those disconcerting him with their sharp eyes.
(2) Wechahi, Statue of “The Cold”, Wood,
Museum of Modern Art, 1960
That controversial duality of confidence/fear was reflected in “The Martyr of Denshawai”, (Figure
no.3), the early herald of the prestigious status El-Wechahi enjoyed in his future. He implemented
the statue in 1963 from artificial stone as his graduation project and he got the final grade(100 out
of 100), before obtaining the prize of the fifth Alexandria Biennale in the same year. In this statue,
Wechahi retreated the emaciated structure, at that time Wechahi also had a very skinny physique,
raising him from fearand apprehension on earth to martyrdom in Heaven.
Despite its advanced height, it did not completely escape from either tremors of distress or
influences of the human weakness that haunt the moribund man at his near death moments to
inject with their secular obsessions in his body convulsions.
Manifesting these all was eloquently expressed through gestures of the hands that played a
conversational and controversial role as well. The right hand made a gesture of mild surrender to
vagaries of fate, while the left hand adhered to the last sign of its physical existence and seemed
as if it was trying to stick in vain to the apparent of the floating body over the ascending gateway in
which the architectural features of the well-established ancient Egyptian monumental gateway
Pylon are combined with the overall distinctive shape of the gallows beams where the two frames
and the horizontal beam stand above the famous penalty platform, as if Wechahi was recalling
in his magnificent statue the greatest spiritual and tragic moment which was beautifully depicted
in the New Testament.
(3) Wechahi, Statue of “The Martyr of Denshawai”,
Denshawai Museum, 1963
This refers us, on the other hand, to the symbolism of the grips in Ancient Egypt statues, denoting the braveness, the ability to do the action, to achieve it and bear its consequences. Now, is it our right, to meditate again the grips of the two hands in» The Martyr» statue? And to evoke this motion which El-Wechahi’s grip adopted when he appeared looking at his graduation project. The sinews of his fingers jumped to grasp the space around them (review Figure no. 3), as if they predict that there will be statues in the Ghaib (unseen) womb, which will be developing throughout their owner career so as to come to life at the end on his hand (Figure no. 68, 69 , 70).
(68), (69), (70) A close photo of one of the expressive accompaniments of the hand position known by Wechahi, which show the similarity with many similar movements of his statue hands.
A photo shows one of the expressive accompaniments of the hand position known by El-Wechahi. El-Wechahi has crowned his works by «Taha Hussein» statue, which grasps the reins of will, clinging to the tyranny of his determination to sum up the career of its two creatives, revealing that the genius of El-Wechahi lies in his strong will and his adhering to tunes› echoes of the release from the repeated melodies of monotony.
Dr. Yasser Mongy
These two features, the form and objective, have been demonstrated in a number of Wechahi’s artworks at which the harmony of the appearance and its content appeared in a captivating manner.
At the forefront of these artworks: “Seated Girl” statue produced in 1962 of wire and tin
(Figure 37) where thebody language appeared to express a desperate worry which the girl
suffering. This appears in her subservient sit where the body organs have postures that
indicate to fate surrender.
The statue of “Africa” which El-Wechahi produced of hammered copper in 1964 (Figure 38)
is charged with the nervous of the repressed rebellion which goes through the stretched
neck of the stand body throughout his vertical axis tilted to the front into gentle bend,
poised on his toes to increase the impact of our sense of the challenge will which lies in the
bending of the head to back, extending his chin and his stretched mouth to front as if he is
ready to launch his stretched arms backward in a position that combines restraint and
sweeping pounce initiate. This statue is specifically reminding us of Giacometti famous
equal known as “The Walking Man” (Figure 39) especially in the bending posture to front.
However it is a bend tend towards appeasement and relaxation unlike El-Wechahi equal
statue which flowing with repressed revolution.
(37) Wechahi, Statue of “Seated Girl”, Wire Netting + Tin,
54cm height, Embassy of Egypt, Paris , France, 1962
Strangely enough, Wechahi returns to the same Giacometti sentence variety at the following year to draw an opposite conclusion. He completed his statue “Downfall” in 1965 made of cement, iron and gravel turning the African revolution, fomented by him in the previous year, to a broken yoke where the character is about to collapse and fragment leaving the task to the recipient to imagine the posture to be, does it subject to fall on knees? Or will it be calmly flung on its back?! (Figure 40).
(38)Wechahi, Statue of “Africa”,Hammered Copper, (39)Alberto Giacometti, Statue of “The Walking Man”, 1961(40)Wechahi, Statue of “Downfall”, Iron+Cement
Museum of Modern Art, Alexandria, 1964 +Gravel, 120cm height, Faculty of Fine Arts,
Alexandria University , Alexandria, Egypt
In addition, El-Wechahi’s statue “Cyclist” (Figure 36) which is made of hammered copper
in 1971 where space plays an essential role goes beyond the boundaries of the
interactive dialogue with the sculptural material to the horizon of the structural detail
illusions drawing the path of motive tumultuous motion and creating pulse tension in the
sculpture organs deluding with the solid air resistance through the assuming motion
It is also in statues “A Tribute to the Ancient Egyptian Cat” made of burnt clay in 1972,
“The Silence” made of burnt clay in 1975, “Amira” made of burnt clay in 1978 agitating
about the character of his beloved wife, and “The Woman and the Sea” produced in 1992
. Emptying is playing a toning structural role at one time at the first statue while his
presence is a par excellence rhythmic in the second statue enhancing design solutions
aimed at creating a balance between motion paths on the edges of the statue.
(36)Wechahi, Statue of “Cyclist”, Hammered Copper, 63cm height, Madrid, Spain, 1971
The reference impact of the original Italian sculptor, who domiciled in Switzerland (1901 - 1966) Alberto Giacometti, where the boundaries between expressionism and formalism are melted in his artworks, appeared at Wechahi experience regarding the maximum reductive treatments of a large number of sculptures, which appeared well-established with the minimum details free from all secondary elements and its extra supplements.
He is satisfied with only basic and fundamental lines where the block with its centered concept is almost end and completely disappears from the structural entity of these sculptures. In addition, the idea of (suffering), as a central concept of Giacometti artworks has a monitored presence at Wechahi’s artworks that inspired by multiple manifestations of the human suffering and related to multiple political and pure sentimental contexts.
(28) Henry Moore, Statue of “Reclining”, Gypsum, 1951 (29) Henry Moore, Statue of “Reclining”, another view
This appears clearly in a number of El-Wechahi most important experiences, at the forefront: “The Woman when she Thinks” (Figure 30),“Woman and Man” produced in 1966 - which was unfortunately destroyed (Figure 31), “A Tribute to the Ancient Egyptian Cat” produced in 1972 (Figure 32), “The Bridge of Life” produced in 1973 (Figure 33), “The Silence” the produced in 1975 (Figure 34), and “Amira” produced in 1978 (Figure 35) where The impact of the “Moore” teachings appeared at this collection of Wechahi’s statues. This is notable, in particular, at four of them: “The Woman when she Thinks”, “Woman and Man”,“The Bridge of Life” and “Amira” which a clear response with Moore statue – Known as “Reclining” made of gypsum in 1951, see (Figs. 32 and 33) – has appeared in all of them at the level of the general form.
Finally, this leads to delude the recipient with the lack of weight of the statue, and
penetration of the space challenging the law of gravitation. This is a characteristic
of the habit features of Brancusi, which devoted previously his distinguish mark among
the world famous sculptors. It seems clearly in many of his most famous artwork
especially his “Bird in the Space” polished bronze statue, during the period between
1932 and 1940 (Figure 11).
The two-experience interference of Brancusi and Wechahi did not stop only at this feature
but also extended to the search horizon of specific topics as well as to the horizon of
experimentation on many materials to re-produce certain artworks times in a row. This is
what we have seen with Wechahi two statues, “The Cold” which was made of
gypsum, then re-produced of wood and “Martyr of Denshawai” which was made of the
artificial stone, before the re- production of polyester, with some modification.
(11) Constantin Brancusi, Statue of “Bird in the Space”, Polished Bronze, 1904 : 1932
That is repeated years later in a number of Wechahi other statues described and analyzed in this study. The interrelationship mentioned appears very clearly in the topics and the multiplicity of the materials when comparing one of Brancusi most famous statues with another of El-Weshahi most famous artworks. That is when contemplate Brancusi statue “Maiastra” accomplished in bronze in 1912 (Figure 12), when he back to test reproducing it from the white marble, during the period between 1915 and 1918 (Figure 13).
(12) Constantin Brancusi, Statue of “Maiastra”, Bronze, 1912 (13) Constantin Brancusi, Statue of “Maiastra”, White Marble –
Polished Bronze, 1915 : 1918
When evoking “The Pigeon” statue (Figure 14) made of gypsum in 1967 produced by
El-Wechahi who is bitterly agitated about Al-Naksa (the setback) which weakened
himself under its stress because it was one month later after leaving Egypt to Spain to
study and refine the experience, we find that the lofty mass of the chest of the
bird swaggering his beauty at Brancusi statue corresponding to a similar block at the
broken bird chest of Wechahi’s statue.
Both blocks float proceeding from a smaller base. The tail of the birds directs receiver
eye towards the top to meet the two bulges, which settle lightly in the space pot. The
difference here is that Brancusi bird straights up boasting his beauty pulling his wings
behind his back like a veteran actor removes his coat edges from his body receiving
cheers and applause of his appearance fans and vice versa Wechahi bird which takes
from his wings two means of fulcrum to avoid the danger of the deadly falling as if
to confirm that his haughtiness is a (substitute) spurious haughtiness which holed
up behind him to dodge the specter of a possible evanescence.
(14) Wechahi, Statue of “The Pigeon”, Gypsum, 43×25×10 cm, Madrid, Spain, 1967
Manifestation of the Duality of Confidence and Fear.... Discourse of the Beginnings
Among the vast majority of the Egyptian plastic art society, his fans and followers and most of those who studied, criticized, or analyzed his artworks and his history, Wechahi was widely known for being bold and brave, not afraid to face the matters or persons, whatever the circumstances or the persons were. Proclaiming boldly his outspoken opinions in some of his life stances also contributed in introducing another feature that was not void of the word of mouth exaggerations which is one of the features characterizing our oriental society to exaggerate while talking about one of the geniuses. These exaggerations, that he was one of the rough artists that no one could secure the consequences of their emotional outbursts if they got angry, lacked credibility.
The echoes of this exaggerated feature circulated among circles of artists, especially among generations of his students at the Sculpture Department at the Faculty of Fine Arts where myths about the dignified professor who might shock the student in his opinions or even scold him for a life or artistic point of view contrary to what the professor saw and the concepts he had. The truth of this exaggerated feature would be soon revealed after the first interaction with El-Wechahi as whoever got close to him is surprised with his captivating personality, combining the personal power and rough will with a flowing sentiment with the grace of life and a great harmony with the essence of the universe to the degree of mysticism, as well as an overwhelming desire for giving and an unlimited support he offered to the most superior of his students. He opened the floodgates for them to enter his life and come to his studio, disclosing the smallest details about his work and life, at the time when other professors were keen to surround their studios and their works by high thick walls of secrecy and opacity under the pretext of the (trade secret).
All those who were close to Wechahi, that degree of intimacy we explained before, almost agreed on the unique personality of this distinguished professor that stemmed from, in the first place, the apparent contradiction in the traits possessed by his great soul; his bravery combined with sweet childish innocence and pure instinct and true feelings, causing him to burst into tears in a lot of situations in which his feelings flooded with joy or pain. Besides his excessive confidence in himself and his abilities, Wechahi had an instinctive fear that drove him many times to hesitation before either proceeding to take a decisive decision or starting to carve one of his landmarks. May be his fear, in contrast with his well-known bravery, is a natural consequence to his early-life conditions; deprived from his mother’s love which severely affects the psyche of any child, especially a sensitive gifted child as him, what led to fostering distrust of the consequences due to absence of maternal love in that early formative period.
As well as the lack of paternal support during a pivotal moment of Wechahi’s life when his father opposed his decision to join the Faculty of Fine Arts, so the beginning of his artistic career was fraught with hesitation and apprehension. The paternal authority here is not supporting, it rather may raise doubt, even at the subconscious level, in the young man’s soul and shake his confidence in his unique talent that might not have grown and nurtured unless his uncle had succeeded in persuading his father to meet the desire of the talented young man.
The best evidence on the impact of these two central events, the loss of his mother and lack of support of his father, on Wechahi’s psyche and, therefore, on the manifestation of the duality of confidence/fear in his life and his art journey is a particular situation that revealed his relation with motherhood. Drawn from his discourse at seminar at the International Book Fair in 2009 as mentioned before, when Wechahi responded to the opinion of one of the ladies, working in the administrative system of the Ministry of Education; she talked about the role of schools in discovering artistic talents. Firstly, he greeted her, calling her “mother”, then said: “Mother plays a very significant part in the Masculine society we are living in. She brings up the children, while Man is only a Contributing factor”. “In the Egyptian homes, there is a directed oppression towards the Creative Child when he tries to express his artistic powers”, he added.
The previous statements may not need any explanation. As El-Wechahi, the 73-year-old man, summed up that the Child still living inside him was longing for the Mother whom he lost when he was young and his standpoint of the masculine society, dominated by man, who is in fact a Contributing factor, leading to practicing Oppression on the Creative child/ Wechahi, the Creative artist ?! . The previous vision is reinforced by another revealing discourse addressed at his honoring ceremony held by the Society of Fine Arts Lovers on January 22nd, 2011.
Wechahi expressed a very significant opinion when he said: “My father’s and mother’s family did not know me very well, like every artist and intellectual in Egypt is not appreciated well among his family and his relatives”. This creative Child was afflicted with his obsessions about lack of recognition, mixed with bitterness of orphan hood and missing parental support, and mingled with fears of absence of appreciation, in spite of all his achievements throughout his long creative career.
Since the first moment, the duality of confidence /fear disclosed itself when Wechahi joined the Faculty of Fine Arts as he recounts, in his discourse at the same honoring ceremony, the circumstances of passing his admission tests at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Cairo, and the oral test in which the examiners were sculptor Mostafa Metwally, and carver El-Hussein Fawzy. They showed him number of postal cards for statues of several renowned sculptors from different ages and different schools. He recognized them and got the full mark (20/20).
However, the suspicious young man did not believe the two professors and urged them to give him a formal statement proving what they said. To that extent, Wechahi doubted in the symbols of the Parental Authority, and wanted to extract from them Official confessions all the time. Echoes of the duality of confidence and fear kept resonating during the following events of Wechahi’s life, accompanying him in his developing and maturing stages, what is obviously seen when he talked about his travel in May, 1967, alone for the first time; he recalled memories of his suspicion about his travel and his disbelief that procedures would be simplified as before, when he travelled with his colleagues, although the official authorities confirmed that all travel procedures were completed.
Their appearance rhythm are raised gradually with varying of time intervals separating the appearance of each of them as clearly and eloquently revealed themselves during the eighties where appear at: “The 20th Century Human (2)” 1980, “The Scream” 1981, “Attempt to Find Balance (2)” 1987.
This approach features are continued to appear from time to time during the nineties
at sculptures such as “Facing” and “Attempt to Find Balance (3)” (Figure 52).
However, Wechahi returns to confirm time and time again his rebellion on the
known rules, and to break the familiar classifications concerning deeply about the
search of abstract reduction depths, at the conclusion of the eighties, to return to a
figuration that outdoes the mightiest school approach professors through the
magnificent statue “Riyad al-Sunbati” in 1989 which already part of his aesthetic and
formulated features was handled.
Thus, Wechahi proved that there is no dichotomy between characterization and
reduction in his unique world where his duality figuration and abstraction is revealed
as cannot be ever seen at one of his equals in the Egyptian sculptural studio.
(52) Wechahi, Statue of “Attempt to Find Balance (3)”, Granite, 2008
2- Silent Scream:
A different type of dialectic duality is revealed in Wechahi’s artworks. This type is rooted in the origin of his artwork psychological content as well as the appearance details are covered even at the level of viewing the external forms. This duality is what should be called the duality of (silent scream) whereby Wechahi’s statues are let in streams.
These streams are distress appealing streams which conceal his character and creature torments in their pulsing trembles which are removed forcibly from the world depths of suffering, the protest, the thirst for freedom, the resistance, the challenge, and the ferocity of believing in existence to the last meanings that move in the existentialism pain circles which even at the level of naming associated with his artwork subjects and its repercussions emerged morally and emotionally through his sculpture block folds. erupted shivers of the meanings are jumped onto the surfaces and volumes apparent declaring his art devoting in favor of existence whoop when the spirit doesn’t appeal loudly and doesn’t speak out, instead declares by pointing and gesturing having a posture to initiate action remaining the revealing energy as strict inhibition captive, and leaving the public disclosure waiting a deferred explosion moment assigned to uncertain prospects.
This contrast manifestation between manifesting and repression, disclosure and secrecy, and scream and silence is appeared in El-Wechahi’s whole artworks. It puts us in turn in a position of confluence and readiness expecting an awaiting imminent shouting instant burst. Its uncontrolled scene is hardly recognized from the sculpture womb of which the possibility is remained depending on our receiving emotions remaining us recumbent on eternal tension bridge extended over secrecy and disclosure.
The silent scream finds various ways disclosing itself through Wechahi’s sculptures starting with these kinetic postures which sometimes beg the viewer to build empathy and compassion bridges when the viewer contemplate “The Cold” statue appeal implanted in his torso which is bending on its trembles, and when awaiting the fate of the broken movement at the statue of “Downfall” which is almost the start of dumb despair proclamation can be heard.
Who could contemplate “Africa” statue without being covered with this scream uncontrolled awaiting readiness which never comes? And who could face “The Scream” statue without feels something scared of this sense repercussions which the title discloses without equivocation even if he does not know that its name is “The Scream”? El-Wechahi may dedicate particular kinetic (habits) to be leading guiding keys in some of his statues, in which the presence of (sound decontrol initiation) plays an essential role.
Among the most important habits: rising of the sculpture head and face upwards forcing the receiver to look towards its aspiring destination expecting engagement of the action of shouting and disclosure at any moment; the eloquent examples are clear in the two varieties of “The Pigeon” statue awaiting the start of his captive shout at any moment from inside the rising chest because of the excessive fullness challenge torments. The same movement can be seen in the statue of “The Silence”.
Despite the contradiction between the statue name and meaning rooted in its formative specifics, the movement of the head sufficed to the prepared aspiration without full speaking out of rising upwards relying on the apparent rising impact over the great chest block and on warning suggest of kinetic disturbance at any moment which underlying in the arm tensions outstretching above the knees to complete the probability sense of jumping (sound) decontrol with rising revolution, and allow expansively the inherent screaming in the imprisoned chest cavity.
The impact of this rising movement of El-Weshahi sculpture heads and faces, can be tracked as well as in “The 20th Century Human” which is almost initiating his captive voice impunity through dealing with the space by the rising chest and his diverging winged arms; the imminent launching flap in the surround space can be heard after his assumed feet are almost to leave their small fulcrum base.
The same can be felt about the statue “Attempt to Find Balance” (2) and (3) which its top rise is almost purely ambitious to go into the space with a loud challenging yell resisting with a desperate stubbornness the inability to straighten and brace the bending legs. The same effect can also be felt about the statues of “Facing”, and “The 20th Century Human” through what the recipient receives of the feeling of the impact moment approach in which their mass erected to coalesce into a bitter fighting cohesion with their surrounding space launching a flouncing power which its voice is kept muffled till the action time is to come.
The muffled scream in Wechahi sculptures is not always a captive scream of the anguish and sorrow circle. It is often escaping to a pleasing voice ringing which concealing a joy energy that trembles his block and surface corners to saturate the time with the joy effect.
That is what we feel differently in the inner space cavities of the statue “The First Step” in 1967 to give us a push towards retrieving the experiences of the childhood joy where happiness is felt because of the discovery of the limited ability to balance and take steps.
This happiness is covered with mother overwhelming joy seeing her baby footsteps for the first time where we about to hear the mutual laugh resonances between the two loving entities. This can also be likened to the statue “Mother and her Child on her Waist” 1973, to enjoy laughter launch which its echoes are reverberated around us in swirls bringing us to the circular motion path of the statue structure.
If we go beyond the direct recalling of the voice which imperatively necessitated by artworks like: “Greeting to the Guitarist”, “The Flute Player” 1971 and “The Lute Player”, do not we feel the successive intermittent challenging scream repetition which their gold nuggets scatter through the sharp angles of “The Impossible Jump” statue 1975? Does not the heat heavily panting hardly emit by the statue “Cyclist” to summarize the violence of his inner struggling movement? Does not the rising tone of the pride and the swagger almost flow from the statue of “The 17-year-old Girl” to go through the air in the direction of the chest of the young girl who reflects for invading life with her femininity? Does not the sea sound scarcely escapes from the interior of the arc movement of the two varieties of the statue “The Woman and the Sea” 1973 and 1992 to embody in front of our eyes the glow of the coalescence of life energy and sense revival?
The answer to all these questions, and feeling the core meanings of these idea revelations as well as meditating formalistic and structural structures which expressing them are all capable of exploring this pivotal duality for El-Wechahi world, (scream / silence) duality.
(30)Wechahi, Statue of “The Woman when she Thinks”, Direct Wax, 1973 (31)Wechahi, Statue of “Woman and Man”, Aswan Clay, 1966
(32)Wechahi, Statue of “A Tribute to the AncientEgyptian Cat”, (33) Wechahi, Statue of “The Bridge of Life”, Bronze, 1973
Burnt Clay, 30 × 13 × 63 cm, Bologna, Italy, 1972
(34) Wechahi, Statue of “The Silence”, Burnt Clay, 75cm height, (35)Wechahi, Statue of “Amira ”, Burnt Clay, Madrid, Spain, 1978
Madrid, Spain, 1975
Another Zadkine statue comes to cast more light on some of the artworks that Wechahi showed a preoccupation with a difficult subject to handle, the music theme and expressing tune and sound worlds with visual and spatial media, as well as to strengthen our understanding of surface and structural treatment methods that Wechahi resorted to them many times in a collection of his distinctive statues which faces and heads formulations played pivotal roles either through their direct presence in his portraiture artworks or through being a part of the general structure of his statue formations.
The statue mentioned is “Orpheus” (Figure 17) which accomplished by Zadkine in 1956 who was agitated about the legend of the master of melodies, Orpheus who caused the Olympians sorrows for his melodies that drip art and grief. This forced them to allow him to visit the nether world, the world of the dead, in an attempt to save his late beloved from the clutches of hell.
This is recorded by one of the excelled Greece legends and the most replete with
symbol connotations which considered nucleus for the emergence of the mystical
spiritual belief, Orphism, where the philosophy of mysticism and meditation are i
ntermingled in a unique combination.
Zadkine treats his Orphic sculpture according to the requirements of the “the new
cubism” approach which have added to his general experience an engagement of
producing combination s of overlapping surfaces of the block and its derivations from
alternate angles and sharp turns evoking the power of the underlying symbols within
the myth theme through the intentional emptying of the chest cavity to be settled and
occupied by the harp solid in an eloquent gesture for melody playing by the master
of music depths and in a flow of melodies through flooding of his heart feeling
(17)Ossip Zadkine, Statue of “Orpheus”, Bronze, 1956
In addition, Zadkine design of the statue movement where the trunk is buckled in the middle through an eager gesture to embody the moment in which “Orpheus” could not control his longing. He turned to his beloved spectrum which he follows through crossing roads of the underworld so he do not miss her forever throwing out the warning of the hell idols from doing that but it happened where the myth reached its mourn peak by the loss of “Orpheus” sweetheart.
The impact of El-Wechahi agitation of this experience appears on two levels. The first is the
subject level when he treats the idea of the music in two of his excelled statues.
The first statue is “Greeting to the Guitarist Paco Carbonell” accomplished of bronze in 1967
(Figure 18) where the Zadkine treatment impact appears on his imagination through more
than feature. One of the treatment methods is the treating of the instrumentalist fingers
which are similar to its equal in Orpheus statue. The other is the treatment of the surface
of the two leg blocks that are more wrapped and rotated at Weshahi’s statue.
Then the treatment of the general shape of the head block like Zadkine briefing treatment.
Finally – and the most important – is the vertical extension of the chords from the guitar solid
penetrating the instrumentalist body cavity in a variety of the same Zadkine treatment of
“Orpheus” statue chest.
(18) Wechahi’s statue, “Greeting to the Guitarist Paco Carbonell”,
Bronze, Madrid, Spain, 1967
The second statue is “The lute Player” (Figure 19). Wechahi repeated the variety treatment of this theme about twenty-three years later in which the entirety mentioned similarities are almost repeated with a general bend in the line rotations and its smoothness.
The second level appears at a number of treatments of El-Wechahi’s statues treating the subject of the personal image (portrait) for a number of characters who has known and become agitated about them as well as in a number of statues at which a head treatment bend appeared to take advantage of the visual and spatial values established by the teachings of cubism approach and leaked to later artistic trend characteristics.
Then the statue of the king «Pepi I» (2332 B.C- 2283 B.C) made of hammered copper in Ancient Egypt, comes to represent the life history of this patient king who endured the vicissitudes of his time (Figure no. 64).
(62)Statue of “Seated Goddess” from the Neolithic Era (63) Henry Moore, Statue of “Woman”, 1956:1957 (64)Statue of “The King Pepi I”, 2332BC –
«approximately 6000 BC», Turkey 2283BC, Hammered Copper, Ancient Egypt
And, finally, in the famous colossal statue of Abraham Lincoln (1809- 1865) which is carved by Piccirilli Brothers - the most renowned marble carvers at that time - under the supervision of its designer, the sculptor Daniel Chester French (1850 – 1931) (Figure no. 65), we see some features which their indications are recalled in «Taha Hussein». We notice them – despite of the clear difference between the «relaxed» position of Lincoln and the anxious sitting posture of Taha Hussein – in the distance between the legs in both statues (Figure no. 66) and the tension shown in the muscles of the two jaws and cheeks which indicate that both personalities have iron will, quality which manifested itself through the symbolism of the hands position and form of grasp (Figure no. 67).
The Presence of Antitheses in his Artworks: As the duality of (Confidence / Fear) is a controlling framework equation which terms dominated the whole psychological life of El-Wechahi and his creative experience as we pass in details, his artworks characterized also with the presence of a number of antithetical features aesthetically, technically and intellectually to form whole group of antitheses.
Their presence leads to charge El-Wechahi’s artworks with a fully share of (the visual controversy) thereby making the recipients in the position of (the effective receivers) of this controversy outputs directing the receivers to ponder and explore the outputs and then making the decision refusing the sufficiency of following only their apparent aesthetic or stopping at the early stages of the pure receiving.
These antitheses are not only stylistically and conceptually accompanied exclusively to El-Wechahi production but also an original mechanism of his matter analysis coordination and a style feature approaching matters emotionally and intellectually.
An indicative narration by El-Wechahi himself is assuring that in an honoring ceremony of the Society of Fine Arts Lovers, on January 22, 2011. He reviewed the overall circumstances in which he lived after traveling to Spain where he stayed seven years and his feeling at the beginning of that period with the contradiction of the voice indication of the word “Egipcio” which means (Egyptian) in Spanish by which his Spaniard friends call him and the voice correlation with the word (Kheptu) in Egyptian colloquial, which means disappointment.
This is evoking a another type of contradiction as he at the same time receives appreciation everywhere when people know that he is an Egyptian, and sometimes he receives Spaniard acclaim (Nasser), a nickname for “Gamal Abdel Nasser”, in a complete contradiction with the case of defeat that Egypt was experiencing its bitterness as a result of Al-Naksa (the setback) at the time.
El-Wechahi performs as antithesis contradiction pickup entity, whatever and however it is, as the debate between these antitheses is a major engine of his personal emotions, in both his life and his creations. Explaining four varieties of these referred antitheses, they consider great importance like no other exploring the essential features of Wechahi’s artworks.
This is for two main reasons: the first is the successive antitheses of this group reiterating the appearance of its impact on his sculptures as they require meditation, the second reason is the direct relationship of the performance aspects and the styles of the technical treatment which El-Wechahi stylistic arsenal are consisting of, in addition to the relationship of these antitheses themselves with most of themes and ideas which devoted El-Wechahi attention to explore their world continuing experimenting and discovering them through the behest of the aesthetic and philosophical flow.
Among these most important varieties of the referred antithesis:
1- Duality of Figuration and Abstraction:
El-Wechahi as one of the most important the innovators (rebels) in the history of the Egyptian sculpture, he was fighting for not relying on a particular art approach, and for not limiting himself in a specific thought or performance form. The permanent experimentation is his optimal and effective tool to achieve this rebellion keeping the abundant energy flowing through the diversification and innovation mouth.
The examining follower for El-Wechahi production since starting to the end notes steadily this kind of the figuration and abstraction alternation methodology passing through various derivative degrees included covered under which the features of the realistic into the imaginary, and the describing corresponding necessities intersect within the scout adventure blandishments. This can be clearly seen mediating Wechahi early artworks as the priority of the figuration emerged into “The Cold” and “The Martyr of Denshawai”.
However the role of abstraction is confined to activate the value of reduction aiming at upholding the essence power, at the expense of the tiny details, and inflaming the expression and symbolism, at the expense of narrative and characterization.
Then the presence of the figuration is a base to search the possibilities of space energy investment, and to have a deep look in the overlapping active relations, existing between them and the values of construction and formation, while investing the minimum of block firmness with its traditional concept and relying on the value of the suggestive lines and angles will suffice.
The lines and angles are motioning with the existence of assumed volumes, and suggesting imaginary possibilities for the space, direction, and the internal movement as they draw illusive block ghosts arising from the mentioned value relationships, not arising from the real existence of a conglomerate substance. Wechahi features of this stage appear strongly during the sixties, and a significant portion of the seventies of the last century. T
hey can be seen in particular in the following sculptures: “Downfall” 1965, “Man and Woman” 1966, “The First Step” in 1967 (Figure 41), “Cyclist” 1971, “The Flute Player” 1971 (Figure 42), “Mother and her Child on her Waist” 1973 (Figure 43), “The Impossible Jump” 1975, “Man and Ball in the Space” 1977.
(41)Wechahi, Statue of “The First Step", Hammered (42)Wechahi, Statue of “The Flute Player”, Bronze, (43)Wechahi, Statue of “Mother and her Child on her
Copper, 90 × 34 × 80cm, The Egyptian Academy Milan, Italy, 1971 Waist, Direct Wax, 1973
Brancusi and Wechahi re-arrange the roles played by the statue necks of El-Wechahi martyr and Barlach beggar. The pigeon’s neck is covered by Wechahi statue chest as a symbol of the hidden bend, versus the elongation of the bird›s neck of Barlach who seemed to stress the confident pea cockish storming of space around it. Here the Wechahi deep understanding of his subject essence is clear. Despite the body demise of The Martyr of Denshawai, seeing him is boasting with his long neck that equals his worldly and otherworldly dignity honor.
While the vanquished neck dwarfed bird comes, although his apparent substitute haughtiness, to reflect a subdued sense of bitter breakage. The sound understanding of the two sculptor experiences, Brancusi and El-Wechahi, requires paying attention to a serious and substantial difference that lies between the perspectives of each other in the treatment of intentionality elongations of their sculptural blocks and in evoking the shapes derived from the ideas of the rise and penetration. Brancusi induces in his artworks some of the most important Freudian concepts related to the presence of the underlying reference of phallus in many of his artworks and its varieties even those that do not seem to have a direct explicitly of body concept of it.
On the other hand, El-Wechahi worries primarily about the structural and design search and gets busy to continue experimentation on unconventional solutions of mass balance Targeting extraordinary artworks and rebelling against the available and common compositions eying the goal of achieving balance, consistency and harmony.
The reference of the original Russian sculptor of a French habitat, Ossip Zadkine (1890 - 1967), comes after Brancusi. His artworks combined between the characteristics of “New Cubism” and primitive arts where his sculptured world touching the equal of El-Wechahi’s artworks, in the structural embodiment of expressionism power included in the subject core, as well as in the range of compositional and sculptural treatment of surface and volume relations that sculpture general structure consist of it.
This combination is obvious when contemplating one of the most important and well-known
Zadkine statues, “The Destroyed City” (Figure No. 15). This enormous edifice statue is made
of bronze in 1951 to commemorate Nazi forces invasion of Rotterdam Holland city in 1940.
The invaded city seems to be embodied in a human body which revives the characters
of “Picasso” appealing loudly on Guernica painting surface; the statue raises its arms in
anguish. Its torso is halved longitudinally due to the brutal shelling that scarred hull
composition and turns it to surfaces with wavy edges where its features about to interfere.
This important statue effect is clear when evoking “The Scream” statue that Wechahi made
it of polyester in 1981 briefing the human body to a deep level of abstraction and investing
the appealing arm posture to intense the voiced scream concept and to embody in a terrifying
solid scream the a deep abstraction.
(15) Ossip Zadkine, Statue of “The Destroyed City”, Bronze, 1951
Although “The Scream” statue is the most touching with Zadkine destroyed city, in idea and topic, “Attempt to Find Balance (1)” (Figure 16), another statue of El-Wechahi introduced two years later than “The Scream”, is the structural preparatory of this contiguity. The statue is made of wood in1979.
Wechahi treats an idea that will be handled substantively in the frame of the
balance search in terms of being a value of the body aestheticism values within
the motional, dancing, athletic and expressive alteration forms. In addition it will
be equally handle d figuratively beyond the body appearances to the soul
insides as balance is considered a psychological and moody state where
consciousness perceptions are consistent conscience chemistry thereby to
achieve the maximum harmony.
It seems at this statue, along with the movement of the arms mentioned, the
adoption of Wechahi on the arc movement design of the entrenched feet
despite the short length in comparison with the length of the statue trunk to
achieve structural (balance).
This matches the raised arm arc at the opposite end that Zadkine has already
resorted to design statue leg breadth along with a rhythm of the arm breadth
with only one difference, is the arm horizontal line is perpendicular to the legs.
(16) Wechahi, Statue of “Attempt to Find Balance(1)”,
Wood, 55 × 25 × 56 cm, Alexandria, 1979
In «Taha Hussein» we witness the fierce struggle between soar and restraint,
between tendency to break in the sky and being kept in capture of the earth
darkness, between the elongation of the torso and shortness of feet.
Moreover, who looks thoughtfully at «Taha Hussein» statue, finds that there are
structural and design links between it and the previous sculptures of El-Wechahi
, which some of them seem to have common motions and structures.
This shows the considerable importance of comparing between «Taha Hussein»
statue and other ones like: Vanna, «The Queen», «Seated Girl», «The Woman
When She Thinks», «The Lute Player», and «Greeting for the Guitarist», in
order to see the development in successive treatments, which Wechahi dived
repeatedly into their diversities throughout the years in terms of the sitting
posture, until these treatments have reached such wonderful level in «Taha
(59) A detailed of the Statue of “Taha Hussein”
From this point, the subtractive technique is rehabilitated, a technique which Wechahi adopted in heads and eye sockets of many of his personalities statues, as we have seen in statues of «Abdel Moneim», «Luigi Ottavio», «Enrico Sergei» «The Sculptor Portrait», «Igon Possel» and «Gino Scartaghiandi», until it reached its peak in Taha Hussein statue, showing the sensory disaster of the Dean (Figure no. 60).
None of Wechahi’s statues, in which he treated the sitting posture and the subtractive technique, has such strong similarity with «Taha Hussein» except «The Silence» statue which includes the design and structural solutions existing in «Taha Hussein» such as: lift of head above the titanic block of the body, bend of torso towards the waist, which is looking forward to the moment of raising, the posture of the two arms ready for the inhibited action, empting the block in Artic form way, the exaggerated elongation in torso and the clear shortness of legs.
Is it our right to say that we can see in «Taha Hussein» an intensive summary of
the Egyptian personality or to be precise the genius of the Egyptian personality,
which Wechahi presents after twenty years from introducing the sufferings of this
personality in «The Silence» statue? Or is it more accurate to say that Wechahi,
to sum up the determined personality of «Taha Hussein», did not find anything
better than developing the design solutions of «Taha Hussein» for «The Silence»
statue through which he appreciated the great patience existing in Egyptian
personality structure? Can we forget this head that turns away? In spite of being a
habit of the visually impaired people, it stimulates us to contemplate the parallel
head in «The Pigeon» statue and in other ones that we have mentioned before in
(60) A detailed of the Statue of “Taha Hussein”
In such statues, lift of the head played an essential role in evocation
the values of resistance, challenge and rebellion. Values, which return
to appear again in «Taha Hussein» statue (Figure no. 61). The contrast
between the readiness to take action and steadiness of being seated
which is shown in «Taha Hussein» statue, refers us to a number of
different civilizations in which appear the seated Figures and those
which get ready to step, such as: «Seated Goddess» statue dating
back to Neolithic Era (approximately 6000 B.C) which is found, with
its steady block and the reassured sitting posture, at Catalh.yük,
Turkey in 1961 (Figure no. 62).The clear echo of the «Seated
Goddess» is in «Woman» statue sculpted by Moore between 1956 and
1957 (Figure no. 63).
(61)A detailed of the Statue of “Taha Hussein”
Sometimes this trend takes another direction during the same period as Wechahi
reformulates artworks that are already produced in accordance with a style tend to the
simplified figurativism, which tends to the detail reduction and focuses on the essential
features of shape and mass.
He tried to formulate them in accordance with a style that figurativism is subjected to
the terms of the abstraction aesthetics with a penchant for excessive tracking of the
complex relationship details arising from the overlap of space into mass resulting from
diverging trend dialogues with the movement of surfaces as a result of emptying and
deletion impact and because of the repeated twists in the folds of the surface and edges.
(48)Wechahi, Statue of “The Queen”, Burnt Clay, 57×22.5×25cm, Rome, Italy, 1973
A unique model for this approach is revealed through the second formulation of “ Pigeon” previously analyzed statue when compared with Brancusi reference as El-Wechahi in 1972, after about seven years completing the first formulation of the statue, retried the same theme formulation as well as the same formation (Figure 49) according to the previously described vision to reach a new variety that is very different from its predecessor despite launching from the same substantive and formative base.
However, during the same period - views of almost purely successive abstractions, are presented such as “A Bird in the Space” statue in 1973 (Figure 50), the statue of “Mars” 1974 (Figure 51), and “The 20th Century Human” in 1978.
(49)Wechahi, Statue of “The Pigeon”, another variety, (50) Wechahi, Statue of “Bird in the Space”, Bronze, (51) Wechahi, Statue of “Mars”, Burnt Clay, Rome,
Burnt Clay, 1972 21×17.5×37.5cm, Bologna, Italy, 1973 Italy, 1974
This is shown clearly in the briefing cavities, and the multiple levels of lower surfaces and overlapped gaps which appeared in multiple forms of Wechahi’s artworks denting Zadkine treatment of “Orpheus” face according to those mentioned features which can be seen in statues of: “Abdel Moneim” made of polyester in 1966(Figure 20), “Igon Possel” made of bronze in 1969 (Figure 21), and “The Sculptor Portrait” made of burnt clay in 1977 (Figure 22).
(19) Wechahi the lute player, Polyester, 1990 (20) Wechahi, Statue of “Abdel Moneim”, Polyester, 37cm height, 1966
(21)Wechahi, Statue of “Igon Possel”, Bronze, 41cm height, (22) Wechahi, Statue of “The Sculptor Portrait”, Burnt Clay,
Valencia, Spain, 1969 Museum of Egyptian Modern Art, Cairo, 1977
The cavities and grooves of the statues played an essential role to intense contrast between the dark and light areas as well as to confirm the distinctive characteristics of the Figures facial features. The impact of this method appeared in the treatment of the lower areas even at Figure statues where Wechahi returned to the direct figurative treatment of which a few models have emerged years later.
Hanging on Echoes of Release
El-Wechahi and Liberation of the Egyptian Sculptural “Repertoire”:
Along four decades of the overwhelming sculptor Abel-Hady El-Wechahi’s life (1936-2013), specifically from the seventies of the past century to the first decade of the present one, a concept was formulated and developed steadily. It turned through experiences, situations and achievements to an absolute certainty in the thoughts of those related to the Egyptian fine art movement, promoting from being a frequent saying to an obvious, irrefutable truth.
This concept always resonates in the sentiment of those who were close to El-Wechahi, saw one of his creations or engaged with a group talking about Wechahi’s life or one of his artworks or his stands and its echo will always control the rhythm of their ideas, flow to the tunes of their feelings, and tirelessly repeat: “The Egyptian sculptural movement may not have witnessed in its recent history such a controversial, equally interesting and contemplable creator as El-Wechahi”.
Wechahi had a borderline personality he therefore was controversial. His feelings and emotions went to the extremes; his soul overflowed with ardent affections when he loved, and when he got angry, he turned to an outburst of anger, and when he confronted and argued, he and frankness were twins, and he was an overjoyed child when he rejoices.
Therefore, it was not surprising that Wechahi stirred controversy or that people’s opinions varied about him to contradiction; he fascinated some while others disliked him for no other reasons than that Wechahi broke the laws of the meaningless social beautification. He was a stubborn opposer to the popular ideas circulating with no support of logic or fact, tough fighter to the ready-made stereotypes, and a fierce denouncer of those who followed the lead of the rigid conventions and the timeworn traditions without either having role in re-criticizing them nor taking a stand on them based on contemplation and consideration. In his repeated campaigns on them, Wechahi continued to describe their behavior as “Herd Behavior”, addressing every aspect of rigidity, slackness and negativity in his society.
To the same extent, Wechahi’s personality was reflected in his art. He never accepted anything less than reaching the highest degree of perfection in whatever relating to formulations of his art and implementation of his artworks; he really devoted a great attention, sometimes reached the degree of obsession, to the smallest details concerning his sculptural treatments; starting with his careful choice of type of the material suiting the nature of the concept of his work which he aspired to accomplish, passing by his precise control of the rhythm of work at his well organized studio which was well-equipped with a professional arsenal of the best and the most expensive tools.
He was one of those artists who probably deprived themselves of living in comfort for the sake of giving generously to their art. And ending with his passionate talk about his works, extolling their aesthetic charms, overwhelmingly mentioning them wherever he went, what raised the ire of some people sometimes, when they saw in his behavior as a form of conceitedness, unaware that his borderline personality was exceeding acceptable and proper limits in his passion of art, moving to a wider space, so if he talked about his art, he would talk about the absolute values , which fascinated him and he dedicated his life for, trying to achieve its artistic models in reality.
However, initiating a study about a creator as El-Wechahi cannot reflect a real image of this creator’s character, nor lead to realize the value of his extraordinary experience and the modernization he brought to the contemporary Egyptian sculpture movement. Even the study can neither justify the elements of its logical structure, nor include the legal frameworks of its basic concepts unless the way is paved, at the first place, and the completely historical context is summarized for its reader.
The historical context that embraced the journey of modern Egyptian sculpture since its first fruits, passing by that Time Bridge on which the eminent Egyptian sculptors along the generations, from conservatives adhering to the constants of the school style to the modernizers searching for marks of modernization, stepped on until the destiny brought El-Wechahi. In his creations and his character, the icon of rebellion against rigidity was identified and to his creative foresight, and on his hands, new horizons were opened, probably the Egyptian Sculptural “Repertoire” was not familiar with them before Wechahi.
The ways to these horizons were paved by the great yearning of his heart over the years of his flourishing life for self-assertion. It continuously swung El-Wechahi between rising against rigidity and stereotyping, wherever and whatever they are, and surpassing the frameworks of the ready-made concepts and the well-trodden paths, with relentless insistence on adherence to achieve perfection and to fully master performance , formally, technically and philosophically, so as to complete the unique traits of his character, the sculptor and the human together, which were carved deeply in the history of the Egyptian sculpture, acquiring its owner a place and status as one of the great modernizers who set significant limits, eliminating the hesitation of the trembling fluctuations between traditionalism and experimentation in the contemporary Egyptian sculpture paths. When commencing the concise introduction mentioned before, and bringing to light the of the first sculptural age, Formation and Establishment of the Conservative Style, there is no way not to stop at the dominant influence made by the first master Mahmoud Mokhtar (1891-1934) on his successors who considered him, as well-deserved, a role model at this period.
He was the center of their attraction and the leader of their way and his news and artworks were in the public eye. And to realize how much Mokhtar had influenced the young sculptor generations who succeeded him is to know that curtains were drawn over the statue, “Nahdet Misr”, Egypt’s Renaissance, on May 20th, 1928, during highest degree of awareness of the twenties and the thirties young Egyptian sculptors. They witnessed the launch of this towering statue in a prestigious official ceremony, reluctantly attended by King Ahmed Fouad, after diligent attempts to abort the statue project because Mokhtar disdained to complete the king’s personal statue, according to one of popular tales in this context. In addition, large masses gathered around Mokhtar and his statue as well as the honor he received in the newspapers and among the elite circles supporting the national liberation.
These significantly influenced the psyche of this ambitious youth, replete with artists who were groping their way as they saw sculpture, their favored art, achieving this social status and moving one of its artists to such level of fine appreciation. Mokhtar’s influence was not limited only on the psychological aspects of members of this generation. He did not stop their works at the boundaries of the academic teachings, especially after Mokhtar’s contribution in establishing «The Preparation School» which number of the most prominent of them entered at that time, as the unique sculptor Moustafa Nagiub, (1913-1990), but he rather went beyond that to what is more profound and important; for many members of this generation, his artworks were guiding examples to numerous technical solutions and inspirational models to many subjects and compositions. A more detailed explanation of his influence will be discussed later.
Through looking attentively at Mokhtar’s charisma, fundamental characteristic of Wechahi is disclosed. It prevented him from falling prey to the influence of that great master, unconditionally and without exceeding his role to be wise follower to the academic teachings, like many of those who were mentioned before.
Yet, this characteristic did not stop him from fully comprehending Mokhtar’s legacy and extracting from his vision the essence of modernization which turned on the hands of many of his followers to a fixed pattern.
During a seminar held at the International Book Fair on January 24th, 2009, El-Wechahi
expressed his opinion in Mokhtar’s works from which he selected “Khamasin” (Figure no.1)
and urged for its enlargement – this is what he called for in the nineties when he was
member of the Fine Arts Committee at the Supreme Council for Culture -- so as to be
placed in one of the Egyptian main squares. He said: “It is one of Mokhtar’s greatest statues.
It competes with all art trends to Post-Modernism. It can compete with any world statue”.
This opinion clearly reveals several key points should be considered by who wants to
understand Wechahi, his thought, his structure and his art.
On one hand, it reflects Wechahi’s own taste in sculpture and what it possessed of decency,
openness and ability to combine the opposites with an amazing special logic. All that
enabled his taste to establish a very rich intellectual /aesthetic reference; in its strong fabric,
the heritage of the past overlapped with the developments of the present and its owner did
not stick up to aesthetics of certain age or to a specific style.
(1) Mahmoud Mokhtar, Statue of “Khamsin”, Artificial Stone,
Mahmoud Mokhtar Museum - El-Gezira
(65) Statue of “Abraham Lincoln”, Marble, by Piccirilli Brothers – under (66) A detailed shows the distance between the legs in both statues
Daniel Chester French supervision, Washington, the United States of America. “Abraham Lincoln” and “Taha Hussein”.
(67) A detailed shows the expression resulted from the hand position in “Abraham Lincoln” and “Taha Hussein”.
He was rather opened to all trends, drawing from the nectar of each what was consistent with his own beliefs, and eventually made his own honey. Also, the same opinion shows his ability to see the «new» wherever it was, regardless the rigid standards of the historical classification, as here he classified Mokhtar’s Khamsin within the Postmodern trends. As an expert, he had such fresh vision and brilliant formation that enabled him to transcend the boundaries of his time and go beyond the barriers of the traditional theorization.
On the other hand, it reflects, what is previously outlined, the uniqueness of Wechahi’s psychological structure, such dignified righteous structure, that rose up against the ready-made stereotypes that might limit his ability to fly freely. Even if he seemed to be fascinated with Mokhtar and realized his notable stature, he never fell into the trap of the first teacher, nor moved in his orbit, emulating his patterns and formations. Rather he established of all that a consistent basis over which he constructed his self-sculptural edifice and put his distinctive imprint on its every brick.
However, Mokhtar was not the only influential master inspiring the generation that preceded El-Weshahi’s generation as the influence of academic teachings was still ruling the art scene, and particularly the art of sculpture as reaching brilliance in this art depended on virtuosity of craftsmanship, complete understanding of anatomy of anatomy, besides ability to match reality, and great knowledge of the sculptural compositions and poses inherited from the veteran masters of sculpture, as well as mastery of technical performance secrets and high skill in adapting different sculptural materials as stones, wood, metals, and other materials.
In this context, young sculptors competed as each of them aspired to reach the peak in achieving all these principles, taking the artworks of their prominent peers and of their predecessors as guiding models and leading examples, and their fame and reputation as an enthusiastic fuel and psychological motivation. One of these sculptors whose their academic proficiency was an example to young sculptors was Othman Mortada Desouki (1896-1925).
The memory of his artistic brilliance resounded long among the sculptors of the School of Fine Arts after dying in the prime of his youth. Another early colleague of Mokhtar, sculptor Antone Hajjar (1891-1962) was exemplary for all artists during that period. He was among the first batch that joined the School of Fine Arts in 1908. He worked as a professor in the School of Applied Arts. Despite abandoning participation in art exhibitions and devoting himself to his private works, he was in the public eye during the thirties as he excelled in carving marble statues on the same Classical Style that emerged during the Renaissance in Italy. He owned a studio at Misr El- Qadema “Old Cairo”.
Among his most famous busts is “Saad Zaghloul” that was widespread among people after making many bronze and gypsum copies of it. His works witnesses over his proficiency in sculpting portrait and capturing personal profiles and mastering anatomy. The Academic Approach and Maintaining the Classical Figuration the conservative and traditional sculptural styles were developed by many political, social and cultural factors which shaped Egypt’s history during the formation period of the members of the generation, other than art teachings and experiences they acquired during the bloom of their youth in Egypt and Europe. These styles, first and foremost, based on the great artistry in matching reality, mastery of the basics of classical sculpture, and maintaining the academic teachings and concepts.
Except for some artists sought other art schools like Mostafa Nagiub who went to Symbolism or Social Realism, especially in the artworks produced lavishly during Abd El-Nasser’s reign. Reflecting the reality prevailed on their artworks through the figurative style in which features drawn from several traditional art schools, topped by Neoclassicism and Impressionism, integrated. While considering the existing circumstances in the Egyptian society during the formation of this generation, then soon will be revealed the reasons behind influencing its members to believe in the conservative figurative trends and persist in producing artworks in the light of these styles teachings, preventing them from drifting behind the modernization which appeared at the works of some of their colleagues and many of those who came after them and witnessed their works.
About this formative period in the young sculptors’ life during mid-thirties of the 20th century, it was written that by the death of Mahmoud Mokhtar (1881-1934), the fine arts movement gradually faded. He owned the personality of a leader and took a vital role in both the official and the popular circles. After his death, everything faded away; the mid-thirties was the period of rigidity, intellectual stagnation and abandonment of the revolutionary values that dominated the political thought and the cultural production in the wake of the patriotic 1919 revolution. Politically, the world economic crisis in the early thirties adversely affected Egypt and Ismail Sidqy took over the prime minister ship and formed a party of the pro-palace officials, notables and lawyers called The Shaab Party, The People’s Party, as well.
This situation represented the beginning of the end for the national tide stage and the destruction of the democratic system in Egypt. By signing the 1936 treaty, an entire stage of the Egyptian Liberalism ended after reaching a compromise, which resolved the national struggle on the negotiating table, and achieved the reconciliation. With the decline of Liberalism in politics, the revolutionary fervor in thought and art declined as well, and turned to maintain the early pro-ruling art, thus the national luster of the fine arts created by Mokhtar was dimmed and drawing as well as sculpture became a “social notability”, supported by the moneyed class and the official authorities.
Artists of the academic stagnation stage met the needs of this dominant class to personal photos (portrait) and decorative works only. In his book, Revolution and Literature, Dr. Louis Awad clarified the academic stagnation state that predominated Egypt when he explained how intellectual vacuum was filled and rigidity prevailed the cultural life generally by the death of numerous poles of the liberal thought and their absence from the cultural scene as well as the retirement of others. He wrote: “In the twenties and the early thirties, Hafez Ibrahim, Ahmed Shawky, Mahmoud Mokhtar, and El-Manfalouty died, and the Apollo school of modernizing the romantic poetry closed its doors by closing its magazine before 1936.
Mohamed El-Sebaei, Mostafa Sadek El-Rafaie, and Zaki Mubarak wrote about their greatest influences before 1936. The five poles, El-Aqqad, Taha Hussein, Heikal, El- Mazni, and Salama Moussa achieved their literary missions, at that time. Moreover, while considering that all the gains of the 1919 revolution: the revolutionary energy, the creative vitality and the ability of diligence all exhausted themselves since signing the 1936 treaty-- the date of abandoning both the national and the constitutional struggle, then it could be concluded why the generation of the 1919 revolution turned to conservative forces, solely representing the official literature between 1936 and 1956.
Thus, the hegemony of the official literature, art and thought during the Faroukian Egypt, the reign of king Farouk, was seemingly well established, yet effectively void. Therefore, the conservative and traditional trends were entrenched in the society then, and the conditions were met for these trends to capture most members of the generation that Wechahi’s generation succeeded to seek freedom of traditionalism and stereotyping and aspire to discover new paths in the contemporary Egyptian sculpture route. A multitude of innovative sculptors came to the fore in the conservative Egyptian sculpture trend. They shouldered the basics of the Egyptian sculptural movement and recorded honorable achievements in the pages of its history.
Along with their strong relationships on the life and artistic level, it was destined for them to participate together in joint works and to have friendly rivalry between them in self-development and style improvement. Their peers to experiment with their treatments and their formulations could realize, as there were some common stylistic features brought them together in several periods of their artistic development journey to such extent that many of them reintroduced specific art topics tackled before. Some works witnessed how much they influenced each other and illustrated how each of them was busy, evaluating his self-experience through meditating it in analogy to experiences of the others.
Many sculptural topics were widespread at that time and had the priority over other topics and the preference of the viewers. Ahmed Othman (1907-1970) was one of the prominent artists among them. Ahmed graduated from School of Egyptian Arts and Decorations and served as professor at the Faculty of Applied Arts in 1933 until he was appointed Head of the Sculpture Department at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Cairo in 1937. He occupied this position until 1957, when he was appointed Dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts in Alexandria. His greatest achievements was The Arab Project, the adopted project by the UNESCO to relocate the giant statues of Abu Simbel temple after being cut with handsaws and put back into their current position.
Also, Mansour Farag (1909-2001) and El-Said Morsy Sadek (born in 1909), Alexandrian sculptor, gleamed during that period. In addition, Mostafa Metwally (1911-1988) was one of the most notable sculptors then. His sculptural skills were set as an example to other artists. He was appointed lecturer at the Faculty of Fine Arts in 1950 and held many teaching faculty posts until he held the presidency of the Sculpture Department, then Deputy of the Faculty in 1970. He participated in founding the Museum of Wax in Helwan and the state emblem in El-Zahraa Palace, the Socialist Union and the National Assembly. In addition, he developed a model of the High Dam, at Museum of Irrigation in El-Qanatir El-Khayriya.
He contributed in restoration and reconstruction of the Ramses statue at the Main Railway Station Sq. In addition to, sculptor Abd El-Qader Rizq (1912-1978) was one of the most brilliant artists at that time and Sadek Mohammed’s star rose then. He worked long in the Ancient Egyptian Agricultural Museum. May be no other sculptor of this array of artists became famous as Gamal El-Seginy (1917-1977). He was distinguished from his peers for modernization, and for being more opened than others to the modern art school as well as for developing his sculptural style that recorded him as one of the great modernizers in the Egyptian modern sculpture. Although El-Seginy is considered a son of this generation, according to that period of time, he was certainly the dynamo for the generation of modernizers, especially artists of the sixties and the seventies, in his continuous and extensive search for developing new techniques and constantly experimenting bold structural treatments.
Thus, he was considered one of the masters who paved the way for the emergence of El-Wechahi. Before the mixed features of Symbolism and Art Deco slipped to his works, Fathy Mahmoud (1918-1982) was influenced by the Egyptian environment in his beginnings. At that time, the sculptural movement expanded to include among its artists a spontaneous artist who neither was one of the academic learners, nor received a systematic art education. He is Abd El-Badie Abd El-Hay, a sculptor of a prodigious talent. He worked long in casting molds at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Cairo, Luxor and El-Ghoureya Atelier and received a sabbatical leave between 1960 and 1970. Thus, the Egyptian sculptural scene was inundating with the geniuses during that fertile period of the art movement life.
So, the arena was not completely empty for a particular one of them. Rather, it was filled with many masterly sculptors, which shows how rough was the road in front of whoever aspired to be among them unless he was extremely talented and solid-willed, had the love of art in the heart of his instinct , and the desire to emerge and continue. Modernization trend and harbingers of Wechahi and his contemporaries Although El-Segini was the most important artist who left significant landmarks in the Egyptian Sculptural modernization, he was not the only godfather in this field. Number of the renowned modernizers, were his contemporaries or succeeded him, launched the early serious and ambitious adventures that made of modernization a decisive issue to all Egyptian sculptors and a subject for renewed research, and an incentive for exerting the utmost endeavor to achieve (The Distinctive Imprint) that became a dream sought by the aspirants of the forefront Egyptian sculptors, specifically the members of 1960’s, and from them Wechahi’s generation and those who succeeded them.
Among them was Hassan El-Agaty, (1923-1979), owner of the important experiences in liberating mass from gravity, taking away the burden of the factual details and abandoning the narrative and descriptive requirements. Mohammed Hagras (1924-2004), owner of the beautiful statue, “Sisyphus 70”, a modernizer sculptor. He was famous for his superior ability in the direct carving of gypsum sculptures, and his full orientation to the ideas gleaned from the social frames, skillfully mixing between the figurative and abstract styles. Yet, he did not receive the appreciation and recognition he deserved for some reasons their explanation is out of the subject.
Then came the veteran, Salah Abd El-Kerim (1925-1988), who initiated the experimentation revolution on displaying aesthetics of scrap and unlocking its hidden abilities in the expressive and symbolic figuration, as well as Kamal Khalifa (1926-1968) who lost his battle with the ravages of time and outbreaks of illness at early age, after leaving a rich noteworthy experience, particularly in his research on human face with a limited experimental sense in his harsh expressions, blending between color and mass, and texture with visual significance. Among the artists were Sobhy Gergis (1929-2013) who persevered with adapting metal to the innate self-obsessions and Ahmed Abd El-Wahab (1932) who linked the ancient Egyptian heritage with folklore, mixing them in a modern flavored structural form.
So, El-Wechahi inherited a rich sculptural legacy embracing an impressive set of melodic phrases, their tones were distributed into two main lines, the first line clung to divide its rhythms on the guidance of the academic teachings, leaded by heritage, following in the footsteps of the great masters, led by Mokhtar, while the other line escaped from the grip of tradition, founding its own tonal combinations through intentional persistence in breaking the ready-made melodic compositions.
Under influence of the historical, social and cultural imperatives that shaped life during the period of his growing awareness in addition to the impact of his unique psyche, El-Wechahi, by his intentional choice, inclined to a group of instrumentalists playing tones of experimentation, adhering to his rebellious nature and searching for a place for his released vision from the gripe of what is conventional, repetitive and available. However, Wechahi’s bias to this trend began after fully demonstrating his competence; he thoroughly comprehended the academic teachings which enabled him to join the academic staff as after his graduation he was appointed as a teaching assistant at the Sculpture Department at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Alexandria. It also enabled him to receive prizes with his early experiences, drawing attention since his early beginnings and establishing his first experimental adventures on basis of well understanding of the technical secrets and comprehensive knowledge of the aesthetic rules.