From 1 April to 25 May 2019 - Espace Claude Lemand

  • MEHADJI, Almond Flower.

    Almond Flower, 2003. Chalk on paper, 57 x 76 cm. Private Collection. © Najia Mehadji. Courtesy Galerie Claude Lemand, Paris.

  • MEHADJI, Pomegranate Flower.

    Pomegranate Flower, 2003. Drawing on paper, 120 x 80 cm. Donation Claude & France Lemand. Museum, Institut du monde arabe, Paris. © Najia Mehadji. Courtesy Galerie Claude Lemand, Paris.


« To draw is essen­tial” declares Najia Mehadji whose arbores­cent forms open out into pow­erful struc­tures making max­imum use of space. Drawn in a very tex­tural way using thick sticks of chalk, they con­sist of con­tin­uous lines carving up space, their fluid quality giving the image a truly vital dynamic. “To draw a tree, you have to rise up with it” Matisse told his stu­dents. This is what the artist does in this metaphor­ical style where the line takes the place of the rising sap to give life to the work, fur­ther rein­forced by the use of san­guine. The world of the living thing directly referred to by Mehadji’s draw­ings is cou­pled with a con­structed ele­ment that imple­ments a con­spic­uous link with archi­tec­ture in its archetypal foun­da­tions, val­i­dated by the specific atten­tion the artist pays to the light. Hence, we have this feeling of wit­nessing the birth of some­thing, inherent in the drawing itself, at this unique moment where the form emerges."
(Philippe Piguet, “À ten­sion, fort fragile” exhi­bi­tion, Vitry-sur-Seine, 2002)

Drawing Flowers.
« I never thought that one day I’d paint flowers. Before that I’d worked on plant themes, on trees of life, on arbores­cence, on pomegranates. And then, in 2001, when my father became seri­ously ill, I began to do flowers because my mind was pre­oc­cu­pied and I couldn’t manage to con­cen­trate on other sub­jects. It may seem anec­dotal, but that’s the real reason. I bought flowers, peonies in par­tic­ular, and I drew them from life. From begin­ning to end, that is to say from the moment the buds opened until they were totally wilted, like a life cycle. »
(Najia Mehadji, inter­view with Henri-François Debailleux, in Najia Mehadji, Editions Art Point, 2012)

« I started working on the flower when my father became ill in 2001 until his death in the May of 2003, the season for pop­pies. These flowers evoke time passing, the speed of light, the flash of beauty. In the spring, I arrange them in water, freshly cut, in the morning; by the evening, they’ve com­pletely opened up; by the next day, they’re starting to wilt. I pho­tograph them as they change; they invite me to mourn but, more gen­er­ally, they allow me to evoke the fleeting nature of life, of our time on earth, our rela­tion­ship with the uni­verse. »
(Najia Mehadji, inter­view with Florence d’Ist, exhi­bi­tion at the Manoir de Martigny, Switzerland, 2011)

Pomegranate Flowers.
« In the works of the last decade, from 2001 until today, she starts her period linked to the plant world, the floral ele­ment and arbores­cences, the result of a long obser­va­tion of almond and pomegranate blossom. The plant world plays a role in her life and in her works for its live-giving flow, which she por­trays with long lines pouring like sap from the space of the canvas. Taken as a sep­a­rate motif, the floral plant ele­ment becomes a “floral abstract”, according to Christine Buci-Gluksmann’s def­i­ni­tion. She works directly on the raw canvas using a thick oil stick, in one single colour, spe­cially made for her by colour craftsmen in Paris. The solid line is directly drawn on the canvas, with no design or con­tour. Aside from tech­nical per­for­mance, this approach requires a great deal of con­cen­tra­tion where no over­flow is allowed, which explains the pre­ci­sion of the line in nearly all the works dated from this period. The work is looked at as a whole where the painted part is as impor­tant as the blank. Thus, the unpainted inter­stices between the lines become a space, a sep­a­rate visual field and, finally, a space for med­i­ta­tion from which light springs: “Be­tween trans­parency and white opaque­ness, there exists an infinite number of degrees of indis­tinct­ness.”(Goethe). They can also be seen as Mashrabiyas, a metaphor of celes­tial beauty sub­li­mated on earth. »
(Najia Mehadji, in Ghita Triki Chraïbi, Najia Mehadji, Editions Art Point, 2012)

On floral folds and twists.
« Suddenly, in a given black flower, the centre is a wave that folds into a twist. In another, the wave dou­bles into a ribbon-like bow. We get the clear impres­sion that these peonies of black­ness are already flowers of the fold. This fold slowly eman­ci­pates itself, inflecting itself in an infinite, Deleuze-style folding oper­a­tion, a form­less fold that meta­mor­phoses into an inflexual ideal in which the floral tex­ture becomes a ver­i­table vortex of light that wraps every­thing in its cloak. And then I realise that the “time spent in the black­ness” and the dis­covery of turquoise are prob­ably just the “shadow line” of an oeuvre where flowers are yanked from chaos in order to rejoin our world, hence­forth inhab­ited by all the Goyas.

Thus, these black flowers - hybridised, unstable, and grasped in their momen­tary pres­ence - rejoin the vir­tual flowers of dis­aster in a shared ten­sion. Manet, who was par­tic­u­larly fond of Goya and peonies, thought “a painter can express every­thing with fruit and flowers or even clouds alone.” That’s exactly it – the lan­guage of flowers is infinite, and has always occu­pied the inter­sec­tion of two age-old his­to­ries: the his­tory of orna­men­ta­tion and dec­o­ra­tive phi­los­ophy, from the Egyptian or Indian lotus flower to the silken embroi­dery on the gowns of Moroccan brides; and the his­tory of painting, when haunted by an stylistic orna­men­talism that forces us to enlarge the minus­cule, as Georgia O’Keeffe would have it.

With the end of Modernism, we have even wit­nessed the return of floral, organic ele­ments in painting, which has pro­duced every kind of abstrac­tion. Singly, in series, in photos and silkscreens, flowers have come to inhabit an entire post-Warhol era. And they have found a new lan­guage both in vir­tual imagery that Miguel Chevalier calls “su­per­na­tures” and in the floral arti­fices that instil even in archi­tec­ture a linear uni­verse more curved and spi­ralling than straight. Indeed, it is this exchange between micro­cosm and macro­cosm on the plane of cosmic imma­nence that is at the centre of every floral pas­sion, including one that claims to be both sacred art and orna­mental motif, as is the case with Islamic art and its orna­mental styli­sa­tion of inter­lacing flowers, cal­lig­raphy and arabesques.

Whether they are flowers of the dis­aster of war with bleached, light lines, or flowers of black­ness with their turquoise glow, Mehadji’s flowers fold and twist like life with its sor­rows and beau­ties, its areas of dark­ness and light, its con­spic­uous dis­plays and the secrets at its heart. »
(Christine Buci-Glucksman)

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