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Critic’s pick: Reham Alaa’s first exhibition breaks the rules

Reham Alaa, a 27-year-old painter, launched her first solo exhibition on 26 June.

Despite the rundown venue of the Cairo Atelier and the small room in which her paintings — all untitled — lined the walls, Alaa’s work jumped out at the viewer, from the splashes of primary colors in her signature piece to the deep hues tinted with gold leaf in her larger works.

Alaa’s subjects are multi-layered, both texturally and conceptually. Trapped in vivid moments — a light bulb in a dim room, eyes loaded with expression, a headdress of minute details — the artwork boasts not only a mastery of technique and pattern work, but also the ability to effortlessly break the rules as colors mix and forms come to life.

An arch and steps shadowed in hues of blue, deep red, black and gold reached out from a painting on one wall, showing one level of serenity. Another had an asymmetrical view of a tree, with brown leaves against a greenish-yellow canvas.

Other striking pieces included a sultry painting of a woman encircled in gold leaf, painted from the back on three pieces of wood, her hair pulled up in a loose bun, and an older work by Alaa consisting of a woman’s face made up of small squares — a technique the artist has used and perfected over the years.

This piece was originally published in Egypt Independent's weekly print edition.

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