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)

Copyright © Galerie Claude Lemand 2012.

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