Unter uns (Entre nous) : 200 x 300 cm, huile sur toile, 2014, Courtesy de l’artiste.
It would have taken a trip to Africa (Tunisia) for Paul Klee to leave behind perspective in his artwork. It would have taken a trip to Europe (Düsseldorf) for Driss Ouadahi to find perspective for his.
To paint is a perilous adventure, with each brushstroke; one must retrace the paths of art history. How then can someone make their own way on such a beaten path? One must paint as those of the 14th century without ever ceasing to be of the 21st century. The equation seems impossible and yet Driss Ouadahi is one of the rare artists who solve it. He is, in this sense, the only painter still alive from North Africa and of the Arab world.
This painting is a vanishing point on four levels of comprehension.
Initially, it is the assemblage of that which the artist collects in watching the world. He collects fragmented images of “neighborhoods” and makes apparent a disturbing resemblance: that these groups of houses are put on the outskirts of cities. Then, it is a painting of memories, of which we will cite only two: that of Mohammed Racim discussing miniature painting in Algeria, and that of Paul Klee discussing architecture put onto canvas. Between collection and memory, the artist situates his work in two other ways: first, with a philosophy of absence. In Ouadahi’s painting, there are no characters, no human representations who can be identified, no human similarities, or resemblances. We are lost in that which we know. Secondly, a metal grate appears, perhaps the framework of a building. Maybe so. But before all, it is the design of the work that comes to the surface. This painting is a palimpsest of itself. Driss Ouadahi creates, in painting it, the first conscious history of painting.
Born in Casablanca, Morocco, of Algerian parents in 1959, Driss Ouadahi grew up in Algeria. He studied at the Ecole Superieure des Beaux Arts d’Alger before enrolling and subsequently graduating from the Kunstakadamie Düsseldorf, the city where he now lives and works. Ouadahi has exhibited in solo exhibitions in New York, San Francisco, Düsseldorf, Germany, and France. He has also taken part in a number of group exhibitions, most recently in Le Retour, 3ème Festival International d’Art Contemporain d’Alger; Magreb: Dos Orillas, Círculo de Bellas Artes, Madrid; Future of a Promise at Venice Bienale 54; Cairo Biennial 12; and CU Art Museum, University of Colarado in Boulder (USA); Museum Kunstpalas Düsseldorf; Villa empain-fondation Boghossian (Brussels).