Gazbia Sirry (Egyptian, b. 1925)
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Gazbia Sirry (Egyptian, b. 1925)


Gazbia Sirry (Egyptian, b. 1925)
signed 'Gazbia' and signed in Arabic (centre right); signed 'Gazbia Sirry', inscribed and dated in Arabic (on the stretcher)
oil and pen on canvas
39½ x 39½in. (100.3 x 100.3cm.)
Executed in 1967
Special notice
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Lot Essay

The present work War by the Egyptian painter Gazbia Sirry is exceptional, both intellectually and artistically as it alludes to the protest against the devastating outcome of the war, followed by the occupation of Arab territories in the 1960s. What is referred to as the Six Day War or Al Nakssa left a huge impact on Arab nations. In Sirry's War, the female body occupies the entire canvas; her long statuesque ebony silhouette appears even more striking by its depiction against the background, which the artist has left bare on the left side of the composition. This is unusual as most of Gazbia Sirry's works are covered with meticulous details and countless patterns.

Nothing in the present work is extravagant, only the female model counts. Her black hair is put up, making the curves of her back from the neck downward more visible, whilst her skin is reminiscent of the traditional wood carving found in African tribal art. The stretched female body contains within it all of the Egyptian aches. Her cry is the cry of all the mothers, sisters and daughters of martyrs. Sirry's choice of the skin tone is a direct criticism addressed to the authorities in Egypt, as the darkness refers to themes of death and sadness. By stripping the body from clothes, the artist also strips the Arab honor and soul and alludes to the events which occurred during the Six Day War.

The soft yet imposing figure is highly contrasted with the right part of the composition where a myriad of multi-coloured houses, uncountable windows, doors and balconies are defined by a soft black contour, reminiscent of the worked wrought iron found in Cairo. A defined dome is nesting the signature of the artist with two minarets and a church bell tower and the artist makes a subtle reference to the aching of all religions. Through his composition, Sirry also engages with issues concerning the living condition of people in a crowded city.

The year 1967 was crucial in Gazbia Sirry's career, as she exhibited her works internationally for the second time, at the Brenken Gallery in Stockholm after a first successful show in America. Since then, her works have been shown around the globe and led to the artist's international recognition.

The present work is imbued with the artist's social and political criticism, yet it remains strikingly elegant and reveals the artist's celebrated talent through a subtle and balanced composition.

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