YOUSSEF ABDELKE : NUDES AGAINST DEADS .
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.