by 'Amr 'Amer with Hussayn Gabr, candle maker
‘Amr ‘Amer investigates the borders between arts and crafts. In this work, he juxtaposes two sculptures made of wax. ‘Amr started by making a mould, then, with Hussayn Gaber, poured wax into it. Hussayn’s workshop is located in the heart of Historic Cairo in a huge wikala (urban caravanserai) built in the late 18th century in the place of a much older one, where his trade has been practiced for a long time: it was known as the Wikala of the Candles. They used the same wax that is used for decorative candles routinely made in the workshop, which are popularly used for family celebrations in Egypt. After drying, ‘Amr carefully polished the sculptures to resemble the marble original.
The objects so produced are wax copies of the head of the figure of the Biblical Prophet David created in Florence between 1501 and 1504 by the Italian sculptor, painter, and architect Michelangelo Buonarroti, a High Renaissance masterpiece that acquired an iconic status among the works of Western art. The only difference between the two otherwise identical wax pieces is that one of them is a candle with a wick, that slowly burns out during the exhibition. How does it affect the status of each object as a piece of art? Is one of them a work of art, while the other, a perishable object of everyday use, is not? Is one of them dead, and the other alive; one eternal, the other mortal? Which one belongs to high art, which one does not, and why?
Klio Krajewska, curator
Gaber found that ‘Amr knew exactly what he wanted to achieve, how he wanted to do the work, and was willing to work hard to reach satisfactory results.
It was difficult in the beginning, because each product requires a different type of wax. They had to try several types of wax to find the most suitable for being formed in the mould, taking into consideration the level to which it solidified, avoiding scratches or shrinkage that would cause cracks in the product. Because of the pieces were rich in minute details, e.g. the hair, the nose and the mouth, they had to follow the dimensions and specifications very exactly.
Gaber believes that such work, although highly creative, it is not suitable for market purposes. The most suitable place for it is in art galleries. Yet, he can do this kind of work, but only as a special request. This was not the first time for him to work on such a commission, he occasionally receives special requests from customers from the affluent areas of Cairo.
He found the work on the project a mutually beneficial experience. Gaber learnt a lot about carving, and Amr could learn about different types of wax and techniques of working with it.
based on the interview with Taher ‘Abd al-Ghani of ARCHiNOS Architecture