L’Art en Egypte —El Telmisany. By : Georges Henein

By : Kamel El Telmisany

L’Art en Egypte
—El Telmisany.

By : Georges Henein

Cairo

Don Quichotte 1939


Every day of our lives, we conscientiously wind up the watches that we were given on a forgotten birthday. Children and fools do not wind up their watches; they unwind them. They thus contrive to make hours, whose value they do not know, bleed. Sometimes the watches react violently and the children and fools are made to bleed from the nose or ear. Then, astonished, they stop reciting the lesson in secret diplomacy upon whose success their parents founded all their hopes, and they go down into the streets to mingle with the stream of the daily carnival. Sky-blue nurses carry out all sentimental repairs free of charge. First aid is performed in the middle of a ruined forest, whose trees were once coat racks for giants. Somber, naked women advance with tranquil steps, blindfolded, seeming not to notice that they are brushing against wild beasts on the right and chasms on the left. When Kamel el-Telmisany begins to uncover the place where he is and the objects around him, he seems profoundly struck by their symbolic appearance. He immediately equips himself with a number of wounds that he places on the surface of things in order to understand them. This is the grating through which the darknesses of love are lit up, and the stigmata of individual destiny come into dangerous focus, these wounds that Telmisany leaves in his wake are like a channel opened in the depth of the ocean, which can be traversed easily with a sweep of the knife known off by heart ever since childhood. Doves sometimes fly in the wrong sky but arrows never pierce the wrong dove. Fish stranded deep in the countryside try in vain to liquefy the earth under their bodies. No matter how much they move, they will never reach the Place du Marché. A wound is, for Telmisany, a second birth. A way of opening his eyes to evident blood. The most important wounds are those from within—which burst through the skin after a long interior journey, just like the red lamps that light up over the studio door and deny access to strangers for as long as the drama is ON AIR. I do not deny that this myth of the wound, which, through an unfortunate interpretation, could validate the existence of an original wound no less indelible than the sin of the same name, threatens to absorb Telmisany and divert him from everything that can inflict wounds, from the weapon and the very spirit of the crime that must be turned against their ancient bearers. Modern painting, an art of expression and not intention, must find artistic terms capable of expressing, for a bowl of fruit just as for a paranoid landscape, the individual’s larger-than-life aggression, which is deeply unfaithful to the limits that its condition imposes on it. Some people still remember Telmisany’s uncertain beginnings. Underneath a dazzling exterior, these beginnings betray a great hesitation that has since been overcome. There was an enormous temptation for any young Egyptian artist to seize a trove of largely unexploited material for artistic ends, material that was the rhythm and shape of this country and that gave it form in the eyes of its own inhabitants. It was indeed possible to transfigure a whole reality, one that aroused little public interest but that simply needed to be rejuvenated by a few artists who could then allow their inspiration to play upon it. This was the direction taken by the neo-orientalist movement that Telmisany once espoused, before discovering that this theory could only lead to a sad impasse. All those who tried, or will try, to found a national art based on the specific aspects of a certain country condemn themselves to failure and total ridicule. Art, which is increasingly a way of uniting human feeling, must not be a way of recording local fashions, customs, ideas and visions—these are only so many false barriers, even more absurd and detestable than the real ones, put up between minds that do not yet dare to admit that they are all connected to one another. Art has no homeland, no territory. Chirico is no more Italian than Delvaux is Belgian, Diego Rivera is Mexican, Tanguy is French, Max Ernst is German or Telmisany is Egyptian. All these men are part of the same fraternal movement,
against which the parochialism of the church tower or the minaret cannot erect the slightest barrier. Telmisany resisted the temptation, so today he is understood and loved not for the few poor scraps of Egyptian soul that still cling to his oeuvre, but for the guttural heartbreak that runs all through it, proof of his violent humanity, springing from the source of universal pain. I would like to end by expressing a very gratuitous desire. I would like Telmisany, for whom poetry seems to have the same essence and importance as painting, to paint a circus in a cemetery …

Georges Henein

By : Kamel El Telmisany

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