The Extra Muros Exhibition: A journey through the artistic evolution of Driss Ouadahi.

Hello dear readers, I hope you are all spending an amazing week. It has been a long time since I uploaded an art article, and quite frankly I missed showcasing interesting art exposition on my blog. Therefore, this week article will focus on an art exposition from the Dusseldorf-based painter Driss Ouadahi at the contemporary Lawrie Shabibi art gallery in Dubaï. The reason why I decided to write about this particular exposition is because I was drawn by the idea of using geometry and light as a means to evoke emotion and highlight the connection between the painter, the viewer, and the painting, moreover, the fact that this exposition is happening in my city gave me the opportunity to fully experience it resulting in my personal opinion on his work.

Originally graduated from an architecture school, Driss Ouadahi is a social and political committed painter. Ouadahi’s practice reflects both the artist’s North African background and his long ties to the new trends within German painting.

Born in Casablanca, Morocco in 1959, of Algerian parents, Driss Ouadahi's family moved back to Algeria where he mostly grew up at. He studied at the Ecole Superieure des Beaux-Arts of Alger before enrolling and subsequently graduating from the Kunstakademie of Düsseldorf, the city where he now lives and works. His most well-known work includes Phantoms of Perception, Kunstverein, Hamburg, Germany, in 2018 and Future of a Promise at Venice Biennale 54, Venice, Italy, 2011. In 2014 Ouadahi received both the Grand Prix Léopold Sédar Senghor Prize at the 11th edition of Dak’Art and the Biennial of Contemporary African Art in Dakar, which definitely asserts his identity as one of the most talented artists of his time.

The installation Extra Muros (meaning "outside the walls") is Driss Ouadahi's third solo exhibition containing a series of new paintings (which mark a departure from his previous work), alongside earlier paintings that show his trajectory over the last decade and a half. Despite Ouadahi’s earlier works demonstrating social and political concerns, his new works contained in Extra Muros shift from social structures to an interesting portrayal of geometry and light, asserting the current change in his practice.

Carcasse by Driss Ouadahi, 2005

The artist desire to present this evolution in his work is caused by his personal experience. Indeed, following a visit to Algeria fifteen years ago, Ouadahi’s paintings were predicated around the ideas of politics of class, religion, and ethnicity, all executed in the representation of underground paths and urban landscapes. In Extra Muros we are shown one of these early works such as the large format painting Carcasse/Heimat (2005) representing a powerful expression of these concerns, with its distant architecture and its emphasis on a strong horizontal grid. Since late 2018 onwards, Ouadahi sought to rebuild his method of painting, without leaving his general concept behind.

Translucide by Driss Ouadahi, 2018

For instance, his recent painting part of Extra Muros; Translucide (2018) points to his new direction. Stripping away all recognizable traces of urban settings, focusing instead on light and transparency, this work is devoid of social commentary, in order to engender a feeling through visual sensation. The titles of two large works in the exhibition; Diaphane and Ethereal, are as descriptive of the subjects as they are of Ouadahi’s state of mind and the maturation of his practice. In the new art pieces part of Extra Muros, Ouadahi creates luminous, transparent, impossible spaces. These works are poetic, emotional, and highlight the process of painting itself and the meditative qualities of the painting and the space it evokes.

In my personal opinion, when it comes to the older paintings, the art pieces are a reminiscence of the industrialization era with doll landscape. Moreover, the angle choice allows the viewer to fully own what they see, indeed we have the feeling to be part of the painting. Due to this artistic choice, I was able to emotionally connect with the painting and ask myself from with angle was I seeing the scenery (from the inside or the outside of the building). Moreover, the color palette choice falls into the meaning of the painting which represents post-war urban landscape.

Regarding the new paintings, I definitely see the difference with the other ones. Indeed the notion of space is gradually fading throughout each painting. The color palette is also evolving, there are slowly becoming brighter and brighter by each painting which gave me a feeling of joy. I was generally pleased with the installation even though I would have loved to see each painting chronologically display for people to easily understand the evolution, my sister was really confused and I had to explain to her.

If you live in Dubaï, feel free to visit this exposition at the gallery Lawrie Shabibi located in Unit 21, Alserkal Avenue, Al-Quoz 1. I hope you enjoyed learning more about Extra Muros, and my opinion on this art installation. Until next time, take care of yourself ♡


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