From 18 October to 18 November 2017 - Galerie Claude Lemand

  • ABDELKE, Nude.

    Nude, 2016. Charcoal on paper, 50 x 65 cm. Donation Claude & France Lemand. Museum, Institut du monde arabe, Paris. © Youssef Abdelke. Courtesy Galerie Claude Lemand, Paris.

  • Abdelke, Nude.

    Nude, 2015. Charcoal on paper, 50 x 65 cm. Private Collection. © Youssef Abdelke. Courtesy Galerie Claude Lemand, Paris.


By Emmanuel Daydé.

For the past three years, the artist secretly brought in sev­eral models to pose for him. They are of dif­ferent ori­gins, Syrian and Sudanese and their poses are simple and nat­ural, like inti­mate illu­mi­na­tions ripped out from reality. The result of these short posing ses­sions of approx­i­mately an hour and a half are tender nude draw­ings, that are fil­tered through a sub­dued light the source of which is located out­side the painting’s sur­face, as often seen in Rembrandt’s paint­ings. Yet the soft waist­lines of these nudes that are either sit­ting, crouching or lying down like modern odal­isques are always appear to have been crossed out, cov­ered with scratch marks and scrib­bled over with dots and lines, hinting to the image of barbed wire holding these fig­ures pris­oners, who have been promised to tor­ture, shame and destruc­tion. Death seems to have called upon these nudes, which Abdelke had already alluded to in his cap­ti­vating work rep­re­senting as a scrawny dead Christ in Holbein’s style the recum­bent nude statue of Saint John Chrysostome, whose tomb is in Al-Hassan Mosque in Damascus as he recalled.

We would be wrong in being sur­prised that Abdelké, the con­stant rebel, finds sat­is­fac­tion in simply sketching naked bodies when people always go on about the ruins of a torn apart Syria. We would be wrong because painting nudes in the East is also an act of resis­tance. More than the woman, he makes the Syrian woman with heavy breasts and dark eyes shine in all her dra­matic and volup­tuous majesty in his night papers. It actu­ally has no impor­tance whether the Syrian woman has white or dark skin: under the bombs, all of Syria’s women are Syrian.

Abdelké rejects any type of voyeurism and he mag­ni­fies the round shapes and wild hair of these mar­tyred women in har­mo­nious and serene com­po­si­tions. They appear as women-statues, women-gar­dens, who need to be looked after and saved. They seem to be guiding the people like Delacroix’s Liberty with bare breasts and to straighten up their bodies like a del­i­cate and proud alle­gory of Syria.

Paris, 20 september 2017

Translated from French by Valérie Didier Hess.

Copyright © Galerie Claude Lemand 2012.

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