Eva Barois De Caevel in conversation with artist Hamid El Kanbouhi

on miércoles, 30 de septiembre de 2015

Hamid El Kanbouhi was born in Larache (Morocco) in 1976. He studied at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy, the Sandberg Institute and the Rijksacademie van beeldende kunsten in Amsterdam. Hamid El Kanbouhi: “I was born in Larache (Morocco). When I was nineteen I moved to The Netherlands and stayed here to develop myself. I am interested in people, communication and social interaction. After a one year language course I started studying at the Social Academy, but soon I decided to apply for art academy. Since then I am an artist.” I draw and paint people. My work is an open laboratory with many possibilities. Sometimes I make huge installations that represent ordinary situations. 

For one of my last works I reconstructed the living room of friends of mine in a museum and iinvited them to live in this ‘museum living room’ for a couple of hours per day. For another work I created a Moroccan café in an exhibition space and asked the customers of the actual café to come over, drink tea and play Ludo.” His work is exhibited frequently, in The Netherlands and abroad. In the summer of 2013 he participated in the Biennale of Marrakech in Morocco. In 2015 a painting of Hamid was aquired by the Saatchi collection and it was included in the exhibiton 'Pangaea II – New Art from Africa and Latin America' at Saatchi Gallery London. In fall 2015 Hamid El Kanbouhi will present a curated solo show at SWAB Barcelona (curator : Eva Barois de Caevel), and in 2016 he will have his third solo show at Galerie Van De Weghe

Hamid El Kanbouhi - Hakkendak - Oil on canvas (2011) - 200x200cm

Eva Barois De Caevel - Hello Hamid, I am very interested in some features of contemporary painting in which you can find, encapsulated into a strong aesthetics, images that are and it is a feeling conveyed by the artworks themselves political. And even if you have no clue of the way they are political, or of what specific events or thoughts they may refer to. That is a feeling I have in front of your work. Can you tell me if I am right and give me some clues?

Hamid El Kanbouhi - The viewer is always right, as long as the artwork is a measure for his interpretative ability.

I try to be and stay an independent spirit who takes every liberty I consider necessary in order to depict what I want. My curiosity and need for communication are the guiding lights. I refuse to restrict me to familiar means of expression. I work with every media, including non-visual tools such as text and sound. I am not there to give the viewer aesthetic gratification. I consider beauty as a concept that has less to do with the eye than with the soul. The traditional boundaries between high and low art, whatever they may be, do not exist in my work. I dont take notice either of the rules, customs and rituals of the various cultures. I bend art historical traditions to my own, individual will. Established facts are there to be tested.

I am fascinated by mathematics, physics, sociology, philosophy, anthropology, theology, history, and everything what has to do with 'man' and 'life'. But I choose deliberately to be an artist, not a politician or scientist or philosopher, I am an observer of the human condition, I am not a messenger, but I am looking for the dimensions of a question. I don't want to show you what my work is about, but I try to make you a part of it.

EBDC- I am particularly interested, for instance, in the way you represent women from North Africa (and its diaspora I assume), in your paintings or in your videos (for instance in Mobiel, 2012), which is an obvious issue in the Western world today, and a place of major conflicts, critics and misunderstandings. Is there something you would like to say about it?

HEK- The point of departure for the video installation Mobiel is a story that called up questions in my mind about the interrelations among culture, tradition, technology and privacy, and various social-cultural interpretations of these concepts. On the basis of these questions, I searched YouTube videos of dancing Arab women. I focused on collecting videos that show women who use YouTube as a mirror and a door to a new world with different rules about privacy. Viewers are invited to immerse themselves in these worlds of reflection, and reflect themselves on reflection.

I represent art in an objective, transparent, conflicting, humoristic and cruel way, simply art without color or border. Personal interests, framing, folklore, espionage and conservation of heritage, all those belong to other professions. My profession is art, I make art, I am an artist.

Hamid El Kanbouhi - Preek - Oil on canvas (2010) – 170x200cm

EBDC- I know that your practice also includes installation, video, performance, and drawing: what is the relation of your work of painting with these other mediums? What is the history of your relation to these different mediums?

HEK- I employ no rules or codes during the making of an art work, each work creates its own instruction manual, the factor that holds together all the resources that are used to create a complex art work (including the viewer) is 'communication'. The viewer is also looked at, every scratch on my work assesses the spectator. I am not a kind of masseur who wants to relax your brain.

EBDC- I love very much the dominance of black and white in your paintings. It is beautiful and powerful: is it something that is present in you work since its beginnings? Is there a special signification (conceptual and/or aesthetical) in this way of representing things?

HEK- I would like to skip this question. I don't want to disturb your view with my banality...

EBDC- As you may know, when asked by the fair to create a new program focusing on African artists I decided to propose a selection that would challenge the notion itself of African artists (for instance by questioning the geographical existence of this notion by including the Caribbean, the diaspora, etc. , or by questioning the assumed notion of  "Black artist" behind this category of "African artists"). I also decided to impose myself another «category» (to reflect on the first and imposed one) by choosing to focus on painting. Is it something you wish to comment (of course, you dont have to and you have the right not to care!)?

HEK- As long as there are no African, Asiatic or South American academies that completely deliver themselves in writing their own art history, there is no African, Asiatic or South American art. Art is a profession, a human profession. There is a huge difference between art and theater, cinema, folklore. A dentist may not operate your eye!

Today more art professionals than ever come from Africa and the Caribbean: it is a logical development. I think that all nations are equally creative.

EBDC- I dont know precisely what your personal history is, but have you ever been seen/invited/desired as the African artist and what kind of experience was it? Do you have the feeling that your painting is from somewhere, and how (because of the iconography within it, because of the places where you studied and what are your influences, etc.)?

HEK- I make Kanbouhian work. Nothing else.