Friday June 14th, 2024
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Parinaz Eleish’s ‘In Fragments’: An Exploration of Cairo’s Character

The exhibit reflects Iranian-Egyptian artist Parinaz Eleish’s relationship with Cairo’s complexities and layered beauty.

Raïs Saleh

Parinaz Eleish’s ‘In Fragments’: An Exploration of Cairo’s Character

Cairo, a city steeped in history and layered with stories, comes to life through the evocative, vibrant and storied art of Parinaz Eleish in her latest exhibition, ‘In Fragments’. This exhibition marks Eleish's debut in the Egyptian art scene, offering a deeply personal and reflective view of the city through paintings, photographs and collage work at Ubuntu Art Gallery in Zamalek.

The artist’s journey through Cairo is not one of mere observation but an intimate exploration of its memories, stories, shadows, and absences. “The life behind curtained windows, the lit basement of a house that seems uninhabited, and a half-open door through which you get a glimpse of a conversation have fascinated me as far back as I can remember,” Eleish tells CairoScene.

Her fascination with the architecture of both the past and present, and the delicate relationship between people and the physical structures they inhabit, form the crux of her work. “I always loved the rooftops of Cairo, which constantly give glimpses into the immense life of the city. There is life everywhere, and you have to walk the streets to see it. To not merely be a visitor, but a traveller.” Wistful and romantic, the exhibition’s works reform the chaos of the city, focusing on its faded beauty, its hidden architectural gems, and its grand past.

‘In Fragments’ captures the essence of Cairo through Eleish’s eyes, employing a mix of painting, photographs (both old family photos as well as her own photographs of the city), newspaper and magazine clippings and other forms of visual storytelling in an array of vibrant collages.

“I always take photographs when I walk around Cairo, and then use these photos to tell the stories of the city, beyond the paintings which underlie the work” shares Eleish. The works explore the city’s physicality and its impact on its inhabitants. “The physical city, the brick and mortar that shelters the dreams and tragedies of its story-telling dwellers, fascinates us if only we would listen,” Eleish says.

Her paintings urge viewers to delve deeper into the city’s maze-like streets, experiencing its pulse and spirit. When asked about the exhibit’s clear tricolour theme of bougainvillaea-purples, soft greens and dusty browns, Eleish says, “In some ways, Cairo is only ever these colours… the city itself is not very colourful, but somehow these colours are ever present.”

Born in Tehran to an Iranian mother and an Egyptian father, Parinaz Eleish’s multicultural heritage is reflected in her diverse artistic endeavours. Growing up, Eleish moved to Switzerland for high school before heading to the United States for higher education. She holds a BFA in Film Production and Painting from Emerson College and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, as well as two MFAs – one in Film Production from Boston University and another in English Writing and Poetry from the University of New Hampshire. Her works employ a mix of different forms, with collage being a central feature of her visual art works.

Eleish's career has spanned various creative fields. She has worked in film production, coordinated film and media events at the French Library and Cultural Center in Boston, and even ran a faux finish painting company in Tehran. Her artistic journey eventually led her back to the US, where she now dedicates herself to painting full-time.

‘In Fragments’ is an invitation to experience Cairo's complexities and contradictions. Eleish's work challenges viewers to abandon superficial perceptions and engage with the city’s deeper narratives. Her pieces reflect the loss and reinvention that come with urban change, urging us to see beyond the visible.

For art enthusiasts and those intrigued by the intersection of personal memories of a city in perpetual change and the character of Cairo’s urban landscape, Parinaz Eleish’s ‘In Fragments’ is a celebration of Cairo’s enduring spirit and a poignant reminder of the beauty found in its fragments.

‘In Fragments’ will be on display until June 13th at Ubuntu Art Gallery in Zamalek.