Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Nejib Belkhodja | Tunisia | 1933 - 2007

Néjib Belkhodja was born in 1933 in the Medina in the Capital of Tunisia, Tunis.

Néjib Belkhodja Tunisia 1933-2007
This is merely a whisper being sent out to the world about the genius of the late, great Néjib Belkhodja. He lived amongst us for seventy-four years and consumed life and lived like so few. He had integrity, something that is lacking in the world today. He set such high standards for himself and others around him. He was the man to teach the world about the power of art and the way in which we should conduct ourselves in our lives. It is difficult to put into words the importance of this man. He lived an outspoken existence with courage and conviction. The word Prophet is a word that best describes the giant that is, Néjib Belkhodja.
During his lifetime he was a Nation builder and a world guide. He was often ignored and marginalised yet still he bore the troubles of his Independent Nation on his shoulders. His work is so important, to see it and understand it will change the way you see yourself and all that is around you. Throughout his life the Leaders were fully aware of the power of Belkhodja; a man who would not be broken by the State or who could not be used as a political toy. He suffered enormously throughout his life, humiliated and disregarded by the Nation. On the 16th June 2007 in the Medina in Tunis I heard such pitiful tributes to a man of such stature who, at the end was honoured by hyocrites. He died virtually penniless and his work is jailed in Banks and Five Star Hotels around his native country of Tunisia. You wont see the work of Belkhodja in any Museum around the world. No. His work is too powerful to be released by his jailers. He sheds light on all the World Leaders. He opens our minds to what is the function and meaning of Art. His work develops Nations and his contribution to the world is beyond compare. His departure from this world has come at just the right time; when the world needs him most. Here is a man, who belongs to us all and in his lifetime has shown us the meaning of generosity. His work introduces us to poets and architecture, to calligraphers and musicians. The subtly within the work is breathtaking and he puts into place the order in which art should be seen, heard and spoken.
Born in 1933 his mother was Dutch and his father Tunisian. He grew up in the Medina in Tunis, the capital of Tunisia, North Africa. For those that don't know what the Medina is, it is the heartbeat of the city, where all the aristocracy resides. It is a walled city within a city, with narrow streets as arteries and huge colourful studded doors, which break up the continuity of the whitewashed wall. The Medina has it's own language, it own specific architecture. The Medina is the untouchable heart of North Africa. The reason Belkhodja chooses to focus his work on the importance of the Medina is that it is the heart of life. It is beyond the control of modern dictatorship. So his work is about the spiritual heartland of the World. The significance of the Medina in Belkhodja's work is constant. For nearly forty years he focused his whole artistic life around the idea of the Medina and his work reads like a biblical message to us all. His work is invincible and belongs to us all, to cage it would be a travesty of justice. I would like the World to stop for just 2 minutes to Honour the Life of Néjib Belkhodja 1933 – 2007.
The African Medina Final Work by Nejib Belkhodja
This is the final work by Nejib Belkhodja - The African Median in 2007

Monday, 5 November 2007

Julie Mehretu | Breaking the DNA Code of Modern Art

Julie Mehretu is one the world's most exciting if not the most exciting modern artists. Born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in 1970 she started her artistic career in Senegal at the University of Cheik AntaDiop in Dakar at the beginning of the 90's and then moved to the States in the latter part of the decade to study a MFA at Rhode Island School of Design. She now resides in New York and is a well-respected and prominent figure within the artist community. Her background and influences from Africa have really left their mark on the artist's work. Those that have left the greatest imprint are the genuine forefathers of modern African art, artists such as the late Alexander Boghossian, better known as "Skunder", who sadly passed away in May 2003 last year and is dynamic interpretation of all thematerials around him and the brilliant slight pen strokes from the great Sudanese artist, who now lives in Oxford, England, Ibrahim El Salahi, alongside these men is the ever present soft, gentle and finebrushstroke work of Islamic calligraphy, all these elements have had avisually dramatic effect on Julie's artistic upbringing and visual alphabet.When a viewer sees her work they are almost invariably reminded of the artist of the 50's, Willem de Kooning and the Cobra Movement and more obviously, Jackson Pollock and the Abstract Expressionists.One simply stands in utter amazement recognising what it was, they were all desperately trying to say in the troubled years after the Second World War. Julie has answered all the questions and has gone the distance,some might even go as far as saying she is Post Abstract Expressionismbut regardless; she leaves no stone unturned and maps out the new way of seeing. It seems she has taken the ideas behind the works of Jackson Pollock and given them mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, breathing new life and setting the colours, shapes and shadows free. Those that go to one of Exhibition's are surrounded by other viewers similarly astounded; all dumbfounded; open-mouthed and just nodding in agreement, amazement but mainly in approval.She has taken the viewer into another dimension and has seemingly taken a huge leap in terms of the development of modern art. All around one can almost hear the penny drop. Julie Mehretu has seemingly broken the DNA code to modern art. Once entering a room the viewer is absorbed into Julie's world. Her pictures are made up of layers. The initial layer is seemly a light pencil sketch but it is much more than that, it is closer to anarchitectural blueprint for the whole painting. She has combined so many elements into her work it is like looking into the artist's chaotic mind and being in it, then taking steps back from it and allthe while different images immerge and exciting thoughts run hazardly around one head. Julie takes the viewer on a personal tour of her mind and the viewer is drawn into the background having to ignore the foreground and the middle for just that instant, a moment to gather the thoughts and allowing the eyes to adjust. In focus, out of focus; looking at the sketch, then out of focus, looking at the busy middle and in focus and then looking again to the edges, out of focus and then in focus, purely dizzy with all the movement. To those that love art this is a feast rarely experienced. It is as if Julie has taken the onlooker to the fair and gently pushed them through the hall of mirrors on a roller coaster. Her understanding of colour is pure genius considerate with its use and how to apply it to maximum effect. Her wonderful appreciation of the primary colours of the reds and greens create a three dimensional quality coupled with blacks to create shape and movement and more importantly perspective. Playing on variants on this theme, orange and yellow give the depth of colour and the blues and black the overall definition. Julie Mehretu's work is unlike anything you have ever seen or likely to see. Simply put she is by far the best artistic fayre-ride in the world today.
Author: Joe Pollitt

Julie talking on camera about printmaking.