1970's Pivotal Migration
During this time, in his home town of Alexandria, Ahmed was engaged as a full-time lecturer on composition and technology in painting, and stage design at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Alexandria University. But the young Ahmed was acutely aware that a much broader horizon lay ahead. Initially trained as a figurative artist in the neoclassical European tradition, and drawing his inspiration primarily from Renaissance masters, he subsequently rediscovered his Islamic roots.
In 1974, he was granted sabbatical leave as an Egyptian delegate for Special advanced Studies in Printmaking at the Central School of Art and Design in London, a migration that was to prove pivotal: in 1978 he secured an MA with distinction in Graphic Design. That same year he was awarded a grant by the British Council to continue research work for a PhD thesis on “The Scientific Foundation of Arabic Letter Shapes”, again at the Central School of Art and Design, in collaboration with the British Museum.
Ahmed had in fact, had no respite from a seemingly inexhaustible itinerary: in 1974, he featured prominently at a summer exhibition at the Royal Academy in London, followed by a group show 12 months later at King’s College, Cambridge, where his works included original paintings whose themes pronounced a strong Islamic culture; more group shows in 1976, at the Central School of Art and Design and the Whitechapel Art Gallery, east London; and in 1978, a personal exhibition at the Embankment Gallery in London.
Ahmed could not have predicted then that over the next two decades he would exhibit in places as renowned and widespread as the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, and Al ‘Ain University, United Arab Emirates, or hitherto uncharted territory such as the Musée Rath in Geneva, Switzerland, and the Pontificia Universitas Gregoriana in the Vatican.