# 35032

MAGDY, Basim

Every subtle gesture

$220.00 AUD

Chicago : Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, [2016]. Octavo, lettered gatefold wrappers with tipped-on photograph (different in each copy), printed verse inside by Omar Kholeif, approx 200 pages, each with a tipped-in photograph and accompanying text. Fine copy. Limited to 350 numbered copies signed by the artist.

‘This beautifully designed and crafted artist’s book is the first publication devoted to Egyptian artist Basim Magdy’s series Every Subtle Gesture. 100 sumptuous images arranged by the artist are accompanied by lyrical captions authored by the artist. The volume also features an ode to the artist by writer and exhibition curator Omar Kholeif. The book is occasioned by Magdy’s first US museum survey at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago in a limited edition of 350. Each copy is numbered and signed by the artist.’ – MCA website https://mcachicago.org/Publications/Books/Every-Subtle-Gesture

Rare, only three copies on WorldCat.

The following essay is taken from Tribe : Photography, film and video from the Arab world https://www.tribephotomagazine.com/issue-01/basim-magdy-every-subtle-gesture

One of Egypt’s most talented exports, Basim Magdy’s work spans paint, film, installation and photography. His work is included in Ocean of Images: New Photography currently on exhibit at MoMA and was awarded artist of the year by Deutsche Bank for 2016.

At the Thirteenth Istanbul Biennial, Magdy presented the photo and text series Every Subtle Gesture. It is a body of work composed of archival color images printed in the upper section of with titles embossed in silver letter press beneath.

Begun in 2012 and based on a collection of personal photographs he had embarked on in 1998, Every Subtle Gesture was inspired by the revolution in Egypt. As the artist was drawn into the drama and tragedy of these events, he created a body of work based on the cycle of aspirations and failures that he perceived as defining human endeavor. The series is extensive, with a vague structure and loose narrative that will, in time, come to an unclear and unexpected end–mirroring the bewildering, uplifting and poignant puzzle that is life.

Magdy studied art at Helwan University in Cairo, receiving a highly conservative education in the arts. His experience was limited to painting. Upon graduating Basim traveled extensively, taught himself new techniques and is continually exploring new forms of expression.

In Every Subtle Gesture the artist has built a series from scores of different images using a variety of photographic equipment that in practical terms catalogue his life. However, this functional diary element is entirely absent from the conceptual drive of the series. The artistry is in the image’s reinterpretation.

Every Subtle Gesture moves constantly through time, it is narrative that is never explicit. Magdy harnesses the confusion of the surreal, bringing a mysterious clarity to the viewers as they untangle emotional responses to an oblique image and its obscure title. Magdy purposefully chooses images shot on locations that may seem familiar but are unrecognizable, providing the freedom for the viewer to identity with an unknown time and place. The pathos of this lingering doubt, the truth just out of reach, is the artist’s aspiration.

Madgy’s titles are key to his work, and the images of Every Subtle Gesture are twinned with captions to create a perfect storm of ambiguity. To Magdy the title is a critical element as well as a clue to the subject, complementing without defining. In order to name each image, Magdy mentally distances himself from the work and baptizes it with a phrase that accords it an unexpected angle. A title such as Every Subtle Gesture Reflected a Growing Revolution is paired with a calm sense of faluka boats floating on the Nile. Where Reality was Separated from its Shadow by a Looking Glass is the title for a mundane apartment building framed by a rainbow. These juxtapositions create a space for the imagination to marinate between the images and their interpretation.

Despite the general view of photography as a documentary tool, Basim Magdy understands it as a perfect vehicle for creating fiction. In Every Subtle Gesture the images present an altered version of reality through the use of voyeuristic angles, confusing proportions and unexpected filters.

The images were taken mostly during Magdy’s travels, dating from his first foray outside of Egypt. They were intended to record places and moments he knew he would never revisit. As such the tools he used were the closest to hand, from disposable Kodaks to the best digital cameras. The artist’s intention is not to take a hyper realistic image, but to derive a narrative from it. To Magdy the technique is secondary to the concept.

Every Subtle Gesture is an important body of work that captures the essence of mono no aware, the Japanese Taoist philosophy of the pathos of things, a sensitivity to ephemera and expression of gentle sadness at the passing of things.