Drawing heavily on inspiration of his home town of Nag Hammadi in Egypt, Ahmed Askalany portrays simple human figures and animals, in a primitive, naive-like quality that harks back to ancient and primitive techniques but repackaged within a contemporary context.
In Donkey with Driver, Askalany modestly depicts a heavy, bulbous figure that rides atop a tired, despairing donkey. Weighed down by the heaviness of the character riding him, the donkey appears to struggle forward. The character, whose disproportionate head disappears against the backdrop of its immense body, applies a sense of force willing the donkey to move on. By attacking the notions of the ideal human body, Askalany injects a sense of humour into the work and the figure remains cartoonish in its quality. The rounded body, hand and legs with swollen belly imply a sense of gluttony and greed that is highlighted by the small head, signifying peoples reliance on force rather than reason. As Askalany says Nowadays, people do not use their heads, and resort to physical power instead.
This present lot can undoubtedly be linked to the sculpture Man on a Horse by Colombian artist Fernando Botero as exaggerated and disproportionate volumetry feature heavily in his work.
Both satirical and humorous, it offers both political and social commentary in regards to his native country. In Man on a Horse a rotunde and rather heavy man sits on a horse that is equally disproportionate, in a stance characteristically used to depict members of high social or military rank. The horses short, fat legs imply that the horse, meant to be a symbol of speed and grace, is actually slow and rendered useless. The man, short and quite stout, is far from someone who should be admired or revered. Man on Horse thus radiates a sense of contemptuous criticism against the Colombian military regime.
Much like Botero's work, Donkey with Driver is particularly poignant in the current political climate in the Middle East. Although the man riding on the donkey is a symbol representing the journey towards the realization of a dream, the inherently ironic and subversive undertones are not lost. Askalany offers a social commentary on the hopes and dreams of the Egyptian people and their political leaders.
Ahmed Askalany's seminal work Donkey with Driver although simple in form, invokes fine details of scathing criticism, irony, humour and ingenuity.
CAPTION: Fernando Botero, Man on a Horse (1999). COPYRIGHT Fernando Botero, courtesy Marlborough Gallery, New York.