Exhibition: Suite Egyptienne by Fouad ElKhoury at The Third Line


Fouad ElKhoury's Suite Egyptienne consists of more than 80 photos from the late 1980s. These photos, many of which are being exhibited for the first time can be seen at The Third Line. The photos are printed in different sizes, ranging from 12x18 cm to 21x14 cm and a few blown up wallpaper prints. The smaller photos feel the most intimate, I guess because they draw you in to take a closer look.

Walking by each wall and looking at each photo, the different sizes felt like they interrupted the visual flow and rhythm of the series. I wonder what would this exhibition look and feel like if all the smaller sized prints were printed much larger, to me they are the much stronger works. Regardless of size or frame, there's a beauty to the photos that cannot be denied. They are intimate, mysterious and cinematic. If you are in Dubai, do make time visit this exhibition and spend time with these photos. It is on until 16th May 2017. 

Suite Egyptienne, an account of the artist’s photographic travels through Egypt starting in the late 80’s. Using Gustave Flaubert and Maxime Du Camp as guides, Fouad followed their footsteps along the Nile valley nearly 150 years later.  

In 1849, Gustave Flaubert and his friend Maxime du Camp embarked on a journey through Egypt commissioned by the French Ministry of Agriculture and Commerce and the Académie des Instructions in Paris respectively. Emblem of the East to the French Bourgeoisie, both were asked to report on ‘the Orient’ which subsequently became central to Flaubert’s writings.

A symbol of Flaubert’s romance with the East was his encounter with Kuchuk Hanem, the famed courtesan from Esna which unexpectedly imposed poetry and romance on the writer’s study of Egypt.

Considered by Fouad Elkoury the subject of some of Flaubert’s most beautiful pages, she returns in his Suite Egyptienne. Whilst in pursuit of Flaubert and Du Camp’s voyage, accompanied by his then wife, Nada, a subconscious overlap of narratives was created. Kuchuk Hanem, 1990, picturing Nada on a sofa playfully hiding her face behind a fan, is Fouad’s reading of Flaubert’s encounter. Nada became the protagonist in Fouad’s depiction of Egypt, transforming the 150-year-old Orientalist narrative into a personal fiction.

These are some of my favourite photos from the exhibition. 

Suite Egyptienne is also a photo book featuring the same series and text by Fouad ElKhoury.