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On the central wall is Egyptian artist Effat Naghi’s 1966 piece The High Dam. Her abstracted rendering of the Aswan Dam project offers an expressionist tone that depicts the complex scaffolding with its wooden and steel beams and ties. In this work, the choice of painting on wood provides a more direct reference to the material of the scaffolding itself. The work was likely one of the Egyptian government’s commission for artists and writers, including her husband Saad El-Khadem, to document the construction of the Aswan Dam from the late 1950s until the mid-1960s. In The High Dam, the structure is seemingly devoid of any living person. From a ground level vantage point, the viewer gazes up at the scaffold comprising pulleys and cranes and mechanical forms. The haphazard structure of tilted blocks and trusses appears on the verge of collapse and the viewer is left questioning whether its apparent frailty is intended to celebrate its achievement or point at the incomplete and tenuous nature of its construction.
Text by Patrick Kane
© Photo: Courtesy of Barjeel Art Foundation, Photography by Capital D Studio
Highlights from the Barjeel Art Foundation. Sharjah Art Museum, UAE, 12 May 2018 - 31 May 2023. Curators: Salwa Mikdadi, Mandy Merzaban, Karim Sultan.