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Waves of Distortion: Young Egyptian artist to debut this spring
Opening 11 March at the El-Sawy Culturewheel is an exhibition called Waves of Distortion, which will mark the first solo show of emerging Egyptian artist Heba Hassabo
Published in Ahram Online on 09 - 03 - 2014

Unveiling a collection of around 15 abstract pieces painted in oils and acrylics over the past two years, Hassabo strives to create ripples in Cairo's contemporary art scene with her inaugural show,Waves of Distortion.This is the artist's first solo exhibition, opening on 11 March at the El-Sawy Culturewheel.
Hassabo did not always know that she wanted to be an artist, she tells Ahram Online. For six years after graduating from the American University in Cairo with a degree in journalism and mass communication, she worked in the human resources department of a multinational company. But one night in 2012, while on a work assignment in Algeria, she realised that a career in HR was not for her. Risking the stability and security associated with a corporate job, she quit and set out shortly after for a trip around Europe that would become a turning point in her life.
Strolling around museums and galleries in cities across Europe, Hassabo discovered a burning passion for art. She decided to take matters into her own hands – literally – and picked up a paintbrush.
In 2013, Hassabo attended a summer art programme at the Slade School, University College London (UCL) with fellow artists from across the globe. Within a supportive environment of like-minded people, she was able to advance her style and skills.
Her visual language constantly evolving, Hassabo is currently in an abstract expressionist phase. Since the onset of her art career, she has become infatuated with action painting – a term coined in 1952 by American art critic Harold Rosenberg to describe a painting style that involves spontaneously dripping and splashing paint onto the canvas. The style was popular between the 1940s and the 1960s, and was often associated with abstract expressionism. Dutch-American artist Willem de Kooning (1904-1997), a pioneer of the abstract expressionist movement, is one of Hassabo's principal creative influences.
“The reason I am so captivated by action painting is that it allows you to release your frustrations through different colors, dripping paint and other techniques,” she says.
Mimicking her bold decision to abandon a stable career and plunge into the unfamiliar world of art, her action paintings are physical manifestations of her commitment to experimentation.
Hassabo's starting point is always colour – she is more concerned with her palette than she is with form. She welcomes painting accidents and revels in the thrill of experimentation.
“Every time I start to paint, something different happens,” she says. “I start with the colours I feel, and then it all starts to change.”
Producing art in a city where the burden of politics and instability is strongly felt, Hassabo turns towards the abstract. Her artworks, produced using oil and acrylic paint, capture emotions through colour on canvas. They are dramatic, rebellious, and nonlinear. And they inspire a healthy, momentary detachment from reality.
Her travels – temporary refugee from the manic Cairo life – supply her with the bulk of the energy she pours into her work. Also inspired by music and meditation, Hassabo is presently engaged in a journey of artistic discovery.
Every month she becomes fascinated with a different artist, and the process of digging deeper into the works of other artists – local and international, pioneering and contemporary alike – is key to her development. Gerhard Richter's experimental techniques, Ahmed Farid's abstract landscapes, Britt Ghali's vibrant colours, and Omar El-Nagdi's textures inspire her to test out new directions.
“Most of my paintings have motion in them, and waves represent something new to me,” the artist says. “And my paintings scream with vibrant colours.”
The artist is fascinated with texture – waves of paint oscillate across the surface of her canvases, evoking movement and sound. Artists sometimes criticise her work for "screaming," yet she maintains that aggression is never her intention. Hassabo's state of mind is different every time she starts to paint, and she believes that every painting carries traces of her emotional state at the time.
“When I look at the painting I don't think of it as an artwork, instead I remember the state I was in when I was painting it,” she says.
Hassabo says passions are meant to be pursued, and time spent doing what you do not enjoy is wasted. And in art, she found a worthwhile and thrilling calling.
Today, fully immersed in her newfound life as an artist, Hassabo works in her Cairo studio, and continues to expose herself to different artworks and experiment with various media and styles.
Programme
Hassabo's debut solo show runs from 11 to 20 March
Word Hall, El-Sawy Culturewheel
26 July Street, under 15 May Bridge, Zamalek, Cairo
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