“Painting is the official sport in heaven.”
In the early 1990’s when the Egyptian artist Khaled Hafez gave up his lucrative medical career to become a visual artist his doctor parents were not impressed. Even today, some twenty five years later, with a successful worldwide career under his belt that has included invitations to exhibit at Manifest 8, the 2010 Cairo Biennale and the Venice Biennale twice, his military orientated father regular asks “And what exactly is it that you are doing?”
Although in part this confusion may well arise from the diversity of Hafez’s practice that includes painting, film/video, photography and installation.
As he told the Think Africa online Magazine’s Tace Bayliss “I love film/video and painting equally and I always describe myself as “a painter who uses film and video as a medium to tell stories”. As mediums, they require two very different mindsets: painting is much more pleasurable and sensual, while film and video is much more rigorous and less "at hand" since several people are involved in the making. As a video artist, I become a slave of external factors such as traffic, circumstances, electricity and technology breakdowns. I write my videos and rewrite and revise and rewrite. I shoot only when I have a script, and when I edit and place sound, either myself or with a team, there is no room for error. The creative pleasure happens in writing, correcting and retouching the final film after the team has finished; the process in-between is sometimes not that pleasurable as it entails discussions and disagreements. Unlike video work, painting is a medium with more “dictatorship” involved and it all lies in my very own hands at all stages of the work."
To which he has added “I am a studio artist and indeed I maintain a military discipline and long studio hours. Since 2005, I go to my studio around 8.30 am every day and leave 12 hours later. I write a video/film a year, use installation and photography frequently, but I paint every day.”
And for his painting Hafez is inspired by the ancient art of his Egyptian forebears about which he says “two dimensional ancient Egyptian painting is thus the first known comic strips in history.” Whereas his filmic works have a more up to date political orientation.
About which he said in Meem Gallery’s catalogue for the 2013 Abu Dhabi Art Fair “My films and installations are heavily political. My painting is less so, though politics is not absent. I guess the case for photography and painting is different as aesthetics play an indispensable part during the viewing process. My international career boomed in the last decade with video/film much more than painting, though galleries deal easier with painting for obvious reasons: less risk, bigger collector base and blue chip auction propagation… Politically charged works have a better shelf life in museums, while collectors for the aesthetics favor relatively safer works.”
Hafez’s current exhibition A Temple for Extended Days is on show at Ayyam’s Dubai Gallery until the 14th of January 2016.