YOUSSEF ABDELKE, RECENT WORKS .

From 3 April to 3 May 2014 - Galerie Claude Lemand

  • ABDELKE, Pierced Heart.

    Pierced Heart, 2013. Charcoal on paper, 150 x 200 cm. Donation Claude & France Lemand. Museum, Institut du monde arabe, Paris. © Youssef Abdelke. Courtesy Galerie Claude Lemand, Paris.

  • ABDELKE, Saint John Chrysostom is buried in Damascus ...

    Saint Jean Chrysostome repose à Damas, dans la mosquée Al-Hasan du quartier Al-Maydân, 2013. Charcoal on paper, 150 x 200 cm. Donation Claude & France Lemand. Museum, Institut du monde arabe, Paris. © Youssef Abdelke. Courtesy Galerie Claude Lemand, Paris.

  • ABDELKE, Oiseau et Damier.

    Oiseau et Damier, 2012. Charcoal on paper on panel, 149 x 146 cm. Donation Claude & France Lemand. Museum, Institut du monde arabe, Paris. © Youssef Abdelke. Courtesy Galerie Claude Lemand, Paris.

  • Abdelke, Skull and Butterfly.

    Skull and Butterfly, 2012. Charcoal on paper on panel, 150 x 150 cm. Private Collection. © Youssef Abdelke. Courtesy Galerie Claude Lemand, Paris.

  • Abdelké, Crâne ligoté.

    Crâne ligoté, 2007. Charcoal on paper, 107 x 147 cm. Private Collection. © Youssef Abdelke. Courtesy Galerie Claude Lemand, Paris.

Youssef Abdelke.

Born in Syria in 1951, Youssef Abdelke lived in Paris from 1981 to 2005. He is one of the rare and best expres­sionist Arab artists. His strong works are in public and pri­vate col­lec­tions. In July 2013, he was arrested again, and then lib­er­ated after an inter­na­tional cam­paign. He is par­tic­i­pating in Paris Art Fair with 4 large recent works. Then, the Claude Lemand Gallery is orga­nizing a solo show from 3 April to 3 May.


Youssef Abdelké, by Alain Jouffroy.

A great observer of living phe­nomena, a metic­u­lous, dis­ci­plined and method­ical engraver, yet also a poet with images, Abdelke first depicted groups of humans wearing masks over their faces, actors looking for authors, just like Pirandello’s char­ac­ters. He placed them in the night, a ter­ribly dark night, where death and mon­sters were omnipresent. That was his ‘human comedy’, a tragic comedy from which the grotesque was never excluded. Humans pro­gres­sively dis­ap­peared whilst ani­mals and plants loomed from that same night. Their pres­ence is so sig­nif­i­cant that you can almost touch them or skim them with the eyes. There is no hyper-realism in all this, not even ‘realism’, in the tra­di­tional sense of that word : every­thing hap­pens as if he was re-inventing, with each line, nature, a sort of ency­clo­pedia of nat­ural phe­nomena which is done with care and at a slow pace.

His vision is so intense that you have the impres­sion of waking up from a dream when looking at his works. It is as if you had never really seen, in depth and in relief, what a simple fish is. Abdelke pen­e­trates the skull, or the fish, or a woman’s shoe, just like Michaux ‘entered’ in an apple. Maybe he had ripped apart the fish before recon­sti­tuting it. Hence he never ‘rep­re­sents’ the fish, the woman’s shoe or the ox’s skull : he res­sus­ci­tates them. This is his power to fas­ci­nate : every­thing is des­tined to die and to dis­ap­pear, yet every­thing can be saved, as if from a deluge. Each living phe­nomenon is a mate­rial mir­acle, a trea­sure and an enigma. Such a sur­prise it is when you redis­cover it ! I do not know how he man­ages in order to reach it. Observation and the utmost atten­tion are not enough. Everything hap­pens as if he wanted to re-invent the world, pro­tect it for good from offence, indif­fer­ence and omis­sion. It is as if he was him­self dead in front of the ox’s skull and that he wanted all living phe­nomena to replace him, the Syrian engraver. It is not ‘Abdelke’ who inter­ests him but rather every­thing that Abdelke isn’t, every­thing that will sur­vive to Abdelke and every­thing that goes beyond, far beyond, Abdelke.

I am sure that Baudelaire would have been impressed by his engrav­ings and that he would have ded­i­cated them poems and enthu­si­astic texts. There will always be day, night, and light, at least for another couple of bil­lion years or so, and there will always be dark­ness. It is in that light and in that dark­ness that Abdelke works, sim­ilar to a candle’s glimmer, a simple little candle, flick­ering in its candle-holder. When he reaches this result, which I call res­ur­rec­tion, he smiles, he is happy, he stops and puts down his chisel ; no point in adding any­thing. It lives or it doesn’t live. It emerges, it re-emerges or it does not emerge. The entire ques­tion of art lies there. Actually, the word ‘art’ is inad­e­quate. It is not a matter of art, but rather of a meta­mor­phosis of death into a live exis­tance. Abdelke’s fish is not a fish : it is an arrow, a beam, a breath, a whis­pered call to life. Yet it is also a fish – I don’t know maybe a salmon, a sar­dine or a pike. But it flies like a bird in the night in which we find our­selves once again immersed. In a large char­coal drawing on canvas, he drew the head of a fish in a box and that mas­sive head stares at us, as if the image of death was more alive for Abdelke than that of life. (Alain Jouffroy)

Copyright © Galerie Claude Lemand 2012.

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