Survey by Qualaroo

On what makes art, art – and on what you think

What's your response to Basim Magdy's work? Arnolfini Volunteer Suzanne van Maurik gives us her thoughts after spending time in the galleries and reminds you to get involved too!

"Is it that warmth that you feel as you look at it – a kind of celestial light of recognition? Is it a plenty of pigment and colour, more colour than your eye can contain, that makes something pleasing to the eye?

Or is it that which grabs you by the gut and twists it, reaches out and slams your head against its canvass, shaking you until your bones creak, that makes true art, and art true?

Egyptian-born artist Basim Magdy dances through these thoughts, with vivid paints and decaying film rolls, pointing us to the transience and ultimate futility of our entire existence.

He sees a world of remnants, filled with traces of shattered ambitions. We see lone and level sands stretch far away, as if through Shelley’s eyes.


I met a traveller from an antique land, 
Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone 
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand, 
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown, 
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command, 
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read 
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things, 
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed; 
And on the pedestal, these words appear: 
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings; 
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair! 
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay 
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare 
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”
Percy Bysshe Shelley 


Basim says the sands stretch out in front of all of us, for all our desperately digital innovation, just as they did for that long-forgotten pharaoh, in that far-away land.  

His exhibition, The Stars Were Aligned For a Century of New Beginnings, veers from fantastical creatures with receivers grafted into their skulls and personifications of the universe akin to a monstrous-looking flea; to a film image of a wilted tulip with a quizzical face drawn onto its drooping petals, in humble permanent marker.

But he also extends an invitation, to you, the observer. He asks us to follow in his footsteps, or to leave him far behind to find our own way.

And he asks you to share what you’ve seen on your travels; your thoughts and feelings about this art – and art in the broadest sense.

So lend us your eye and give us your view – whether you were pleased, or rattled. Many of you already have, but there’s always room for more. 

Type, draw, craft. Scrawl your spleen in bold letters or submit your consent in clipped phrases – like messages in a bottle.

Choose whatever language you like to become part of this story. But leave your mark. #DearBasim" 



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Sunday 08 December 2019, 13:00 to 16:00


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