Dalloul Art Foundation

Dalloul Art Foundation

MAHI BINEBINE MAHI BINEBINE

MAHI BINEBINE, Morocco (1959)

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Bio

Written by Arthur Debsi

Born in 1959 in the old city of Marrakesh, in the neighborhood of Riad Zitoun, Mahi Binebine is the sixth of seven children from a modest, and well-educated family. Despite the absence of his father, an Arabic teacher with close ties to King Hassan II (1929-1999), and who had previously left the house; the young boy grew up in a very joyful environment, and was taught important human values. In July 1971, a military group failed overthrowing the monarchy, as a result of the attempt of the Skhirat coup d’état. In response to this putsch, King Hassan II (1929-1999) arrested, and judged every person involved in this operation, before ceasing them. Among these defendants, the older brother of Mahi Binebine, Aziz Binebine, who disappeared for twenty years, was eventually released from detention[1]. In 1980, Binebine traveled to France, and settled in Paris, where he studied mathematics, and then started a career as a teacher. Although he was from his country, he kept aware of the exactions conducted by the government of King Hassan II (1929-1999), by frequenting the Moroccan opposition circles based in the French capital city. Having taught mathematics for eight years, he dedicated his life to writing, as well as painting. In 1992, he wrote his first novel entitled Le Sommeil de l’Esclave, and has published one almost every two years since then. In his written work, he walks the reader through his childhood memories, questions humanity, and also tackles current subjects such as in Cannibales, published in 1999, in which he focused on the issue of illegal immigration from North Africa to Europe. After his lifetime in France, Mahi Binebine went to the United States, where he settled at his brother’s place in New York. However, he didn’t find himself comfortable living there, as he said: ‘All was easy, simple. And I missed France, Parisian life, my friends’[2]. He consequently went back to Europe, and started working between Paris, and Madrid, where he met, and collaborated with the Spanish artist Miguel Galanda (1951-). In 2002, witnessing the rise of the extreme right during the first round of the presidential elections, Binebine could not conceive France taking this political direction. Thus, he returned to Marrakesh, when the city’s development boomed.    

The time spent in New York gave Mahi Binebine a wider visibility in the international artistic scene. In 1997, the artist held his first exhibition at the Stendhal gallery in the district of Soho, and the works caught the attention of the American patron Barbara Jonas (1933-2018). Through her, the Guggenheim Museum bought one of his works[3].

 Mahi Binebine didn’t receive an education in art, and his painted oeuvre is not affiliated to any Moroccan, or international specific movements. He finds a correlation between his books, and his artistic production, which are both ways of expressing memories, torments, and melancholia. During the 1990s in New York, the art of Binebine reached a maturity point, through a vivid experimental process. The painter-writer demonstrated an evident interest in abstraction, and a technical talent by using a wide range of materials such as wax, blowtorch, nails, and pigments. Seeking for the luminosity, he applied a palette of bright colors such as red, ochre and blue, which somehow recall the colors of his hometown. Yet, Binebine preferred to use the color as a synthesis of his visual reminiscences of Marrakech, and not a realistic version of them. These colors cover the entire space of the canvas, and take the spectator into an intense dreamlike world. The painter progressively integrated human figures in his compositions, that he would paint in black, but didn’t chose to give any physical characteristic – sometimes, they are only silhouettes.

Since then on, the human figure has been at the heart of the oeuvre Mahi Binebine. He explores the self, and delves into the complexities, the deep desires, and the mysteries of the mankind. Through simple, and delicate drawing, he depicts naked bald men, and women, as if he brings them back to their primitive nature. Binebine uses the pure line, and cool colors, to illustrate these characters either alone, in couple, or in a group, who are completely detached from the physical reality. The figures adopt various positions, which corresponds to the different phases of the life being such as the tragedies, isolation, and glories. In the Dalloul Art Foundation’s collection, the artwork Untitled (2013) reveals two naked subjects, a man and a woman, painted in blue. The woman is confidently laying on the back of the man, who seems to be thinking. In the Moroccan modern painting, the representation of the body is quite recent, since the first movements were more turned towards the search of the Moroccan artistic identity, through the work on the local, and Islamic cultural heritage[4]. And alongside Mohammed Kacimi (1942-2003), Binebine is known for integrating the body as a pictorial element in visual arts in Morocco[5].  However, the artist’s conception of the body is not related to aesthetic, but more to material approach[6]. He envisages the body as a sculptural entity, which can take many forms. Here, he drew straight, and thin lines on the bodies of the characters, that he imagined to be fragmented, and also sensual. There is a sort of narrative aspect in the scene, where the artist creates a spiritual world, in which the individual becomes universal.

The impacts of the hazards of life are noticeable in a series of paintings, in which Mahi Binebine only illustrated human faces. The latter are hard, emaciated, and look like they are imprisoned by the lines, which scratched them, seen in the two examples present in the Dalloul Art Foundation’s collection. Both called Untitled, and executed in 2012, the paintings expose two faces, which occupy the middle of the compositions, and highly express grief, pain, and fate. Binebine intentionally separated them from the rest of the body in order to symbolize this inter worlds, in which he lives between Morocco, France, and the United States. These three geographical, and artistic dynamic areas, could present some tensions, as well as contradictions, that affected the painter. He aims to display this feeling of unease, and sorrow, that he perfectly renders in his sculpted oeuvre. Being an accomplished sculptor, Binebine likes to blur the boundary between painting, and sculpture. The faces strongly resemble African masks, like in Masque fragmenté (2014), also part of DAF’s collection. These two overlapped faces take a universal dimension, in the sense that the features are stereotyped; which makes their identities unknown. Although Mahi Binebine considers to embody African tradition[7], and this cultural affiliation is commonly assured, his choice goes beyond the affirmation of an African identity. He effectively works on the mask-like faces to reflect the unspeakable, and to free the unconscious. Like he does in his novels, Mahi Binebine succeeds in shedding light on the hard Human conditions living, and his solitude.

Mahi Binebine lives, and works in Marrakesh.

[1] Prolongeau-Wade, Souné. ‘Mahi Binebine: The Frontiers’ Smuggler’ in Binebine, Mahi, Prolongeau-Wade Souné, Frederic Charpentier, Touria Binebine, and Joachim Pissarro. Mahi Binebine. Casablanca, Morocco: Atelier k, 2007. [P.10]

[2] Mahi Binebine quoted in Prolongeau-Wade, Souné. ‘Mahi Binebine: The Frontiers’ Smuggler’ in Binebine, Mahi, Prolongeau-Wade Souné, Frederic Charpentier, Touria Binebine, and Joachim Pissarro. Mahi Binebine. Casablanca, Morocco: Atelier k, 2007. [P.11]

[3] Jeune Afrique. “Binebine, L'adieu Aux Larmes – Jeune Afrique,” June 10, 2009. https://www.jeuneafrique.com/202970/archives-thematique/binebine-l-adieu-aux-larmes/.

[4] Ali, Wijdan. Modern Islamic Art: Development and Continuity. Gainesville, USA: University Press of Florida, 1997. [P.75]

[5] Kabbal, Maati. ‘Le Corps et ses doubles’ in Binebine, Mahi. Mahi Binebine. Casablanca, Morocco: Les Éditions Art point, 2013. [P.259]

[6] Kabbal, Maati. ‘Le Corps et ses doubles’ in Binebine, Mahi. Mahi Binebine. Casablanca, Morocco: Les Éditions Art point, 2013. [P.259]

[7] Prolongeau-Wade, Souné. ‘Mahi Binebine: The Frontiers’ Smuggler’ in Binebine, Mahi, Prolongeau-Wade Souné, Frederic Charpentier, Touria Binebine, and Joachim Pissarro. Mahi Binebine. Casablanca, Morocco: Atelier k, 2007. [P.10]

Sources

Ali, Wijdan. Modern Islamic Art: Development and Continuity. Gainesville, USA: University Press of Florida, 1997.

Binebine, Mahi. Mahi Binebine. Casablanca, Morocco: Les Éditions Art point, 2013.

Binebine, Mahi, Prolongeau-Wade Souné, Frederic Charpentier, Touria Binebine, and Joachim Pissarro. Mahi Binebine. Casablanca, Morocco: Atelier k, 2007.

Binebine, Touria. Mahi Binebine [Exhibition catalogue, Mahi Binebine, March 2nd - April 30th 2014, Musée de La Palmeraie, Marrakesh]. Marrakesh, Morocco: Musée de La Palmeraie, 2014.

Jeune Afrique. “Binebine, L'adieu Aux Larmes – Jeune Afrique,” June 10, 2009. https://www.jeuneafrique.com/202970/archives-thematique/binebine-l-adieu-aux-larmes/.

Raji, Hicham. “L'univers Triste Et Passionnant De Mahi Binebine.” BAB, 2004. http://www.babelmed.net/letteratura/250-marocco/1152-l-univers-triste-et-passionnant-de-mahi-binebine.html.

Biographie Mahi Binebine: Marrakech: Peintre et Ecrivain. (n.d.). Retrieved August 31, 2020, from https://www.mahibinebine.com/biographie

“Biographie De Mahi Binebine,” January 11, 2014. http://atelier21.ma/fr/mahi-binebine-biography/.

Accessed September 1, 2020. https://www.claude-lemand.com/artiste/mahi-binebine?souspage=bio.

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