Basim Magdy’s wide, wide world

by January 3, 2011

"The Only Memory I Have of my Past Life is the Uniformity of the Circumstances", Basim Magdy (2010)

Born in Assiut, Egypt and educated in Cairo (and now living in Basel and Cairo), Basim Magdy is an artist comfortable with (or perhaps, more accurately, driven to produce in) a wide range of modes: painter, illustrator, videographer, installation artist, sculptor. The themes of his work are similarly varied: in one video he explores modern cosmology (“Turtles All the Way Down“, for those still interested in this topic), an illuminated-text-on-mirror sign declares “Your head is a spare part in our factory of perfection” while viewers stare at their own image in the glass, and a 2010 painting (above) depicts scientists — or perhaps NGO squatters — standing on top of an unmanned radar base somewhere in the high arctic. In his “painter” mode, his backgrounds tend towards the dramatically simplified, his subjects towards silhouettes.

Though not a great deal has been written on Magdy recently, Kaelen Wilson–Goldie in Lebanon’s Daily Star provides a good overview (circa 2007) of his work and his ideas — including his interest in war, space exploration, and Bigfoot:

The computer file and the stencils provide telling clues to the twinned concerns that course through Magdy’s artistic practice. On one hand, his work wouldn’t be possible without certain advancements in digital technology, such as the ease with which he appropriates and alters images on his computer. On the other hand, his pieces are tactile. The look of his drawings, for example, is all lo-fi arts and crafts – pen to paper with pools of watercolors and the soft, diffused fuzz of spray paint. His installations often appeal to multiple senses at one – not only sight and sound but also touch and smell.

Magdy’s arsenal of images includes variations on a gorilla that bears a striking resemblance to Chewbacca, military helicopters, saucer-shaped UFOs, rockets, space ships, soldiers, astronauts, tanks, a monkey with Paul Frank cool, flags, palm trees, block-like buildings, distant hills, television sets and characters from old school video games.

Read the rest here, and visit Magdy’s site here.