Dalloul Art Foundation

Dalloul Art Foundation

MOHAMMED HAMIDI MOHAMMED HAMIDI

MOHAMMED HAMIDI, Morocco (1941)

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Bio

Written by Arthur Debsi

Born in 1941 in Casablanca, Mohammed Hamidi studied at the École des Beaux-Arts in Casablanca, and then traveled to France in 1959. There, he stayed in Paris, where he familiarized himself with art, and culture, visiting museums, artists’ workshops, and galleries. Later on, he pursued his education at the École des Métiers d’art in Paris for two years, prior to enrolling at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris in 1962. He graduated in monumental art, and became the assistant of the French painter Jean Aujame (1905-1965) in his studio, at the same establishment. In 1967, Hamidi eventually went back to Morocco, where he joined the new pedagogical team formed at the École des Beaux-Arts in Casablanca. The artist taught painting until 1975, and also participated in the exhibition, held in the square of Jemaa El-Fnaa, in Marrakesh in 1969, alongside Farid Belkahia (1934-2014), Mohamed Melehi (1936-), and Mohammed Chebaa (1935-2013). 

When Morocco got its independence as a French Protectorate in 1956, the initiatives taken by the artists’ generation grew increasingly. As of the late 1960s, the École des Beaux-Arts in Casablanca became a catalyst for the development of the artistic, and cultural local scene. Farid Belkahia (1934-2014) chose to adopt a new approach of teaching, by giving the curriculum a methodology, that would promote the Moroccan artistic heritage, and practice. Different from an academic, and French oriented education, the innovative program proposed to the students more experimental courses, which included the study on traditional arts, namely tapestry, Islamic architecture, and pottery[1]. As a matter of fact, another artistic dynamic occurred, and one of the main aims was to raise the local public’s awareness of the artistic production. During the 1970s in Morocco, the artworks circulated more and more in the country, where art spaces, and galleries successively opened[2]. For example, the gallery called L’Atelier was founded by Pauline de Mazières (1993-) in Rabat in 1971, and as the first modern, and independent art gallery in the city; it turned into an important place, where the local art, and artists could have better international visibility[3]. The country had an appetite for art, and culture, and Mohammed Hamidi contributed to this dynamic, particularly when he founded the Association Marocaine des Arts Plastiques (Moroccan Association of Plastic Arts) in 1972. This project tended to create, and strengthen the connections between the Moroccan artists, and other Arab artists, during their gatherings in many capitals in the Arab world like Baghdad, Tunis, and Algiers[4]. In Asilah in 1978, Mohamed Melehi (1936-), and the Moroccan writer, and journalist Mohamed Benaissa (1937-) launched the first edition of the annual Cultural Musim Asilah, which was celebrating art, music, and poetry[5]. Mohamed Hamidi decorated the white walls of the city, with a palette of bright colors, and remembered this unique experience: ‘I’ve done murals before, but they were indoors. This is the first time I’ve done a mural in open air. I brought a plan for a mural with me, but I suddenly found that my plan was not suitable for the particular wall I had chosen, (…)’[6]. Here, he embodied the figure of the artist, who freed himself from his prior notions, and practice, in order to cross the limits of conventional painting. 

 From his time in Paris, Mohamed Hamidi didn’t deny the impacts, that the avant-garde art movements had on his personal reflection, and sensitivity, as he said: ‘At that time, new fields of investigation opened up to me, and I discovered the paintings of Matisse, Klee, and Bissière’[7]. However, back in his country, he chose to delve into what constitutes Moroccan artistic identity, and visual culture. In the two artworks entitled Détente(1968), and Composition(1969), part of the Dalloul Art Foundation’s collection, the painter showed his strong interest in abstraction. Applying warm colors like yellow, and red, he abandoned the work on perspective, and combined flat elements like spheres, squares, and triangles, by overlapping, or superposing them. He consequently organized the compositions like a sort of imaginary constructions, and enforced the symbolic aspect of the subjects. The symbols play a significant role in multiplies artistic traditions such as Arab, Berber, Islamic, and even African, that were specifically the sources of inspiration for Moroccan modern artists[8]. The symbol signifies this attempt of the artist, or craftsman to connect to the unknown, and the invisible. This enriched several ways of religious, cultural, and personal interpretations. In his oeuvre, Hamidi liked to emphasize the sensual power of the motifs, reducing both the male, and the female figures, as well as their bodies, to simple geometrical forms, but equally suggestive. This integration of the symbols in the painted works, appears to be a manner for the artist to appropriate his own, and legit references. Symbols, and geometry have always belonged to the daily life, and environment of Moroccan people, whether in architecture, or craftsmanship[9]

The artistic process that Mohammed Hamidi proposed, and defended, is relevant to the position that the artists from the École des Beaux-Arts in Casablanca adopted. The challenge was to affirm the legitimacy of the Moroccan modern art, as the painter stated: ‘Indeed, we must fight against a prejudice that weighs on the whole of the Third World, a prejudice that insists on seeing in the Third World art only an expression of primitive man’[10]

Mohammed Hamidi lives, and works between Azemmour, Casablanca, and Grasse, France. 


[1]
Benchemsi, Rajae, and Farid Belkahia. Farid Belkahia. Milano, Italy: Skira, 2013. [P.17]

[2]Zāhī Farīd al-. D'un Regard, L'autre: L'art Et Ses méditations Au Maroc. Rabat, Morocco: Marsam, 2006. [P.19]

[3]Montazami, Morad. “La Galerie L’Atelier : Le Musée sans Murs Du Modernisme Transméditerranéen.” Perspective, no. 2 (2017): 221–28. https://doi.org/10.4000/perspective.7748. [P.229]

[4]Bloom, Jonathan, and Sheila Blair. The Grove Encyclopedia of Islamic Art and Architecture. Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press, 2009. [P.547]

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

[6]Statement of Mohammed Hamidi quoted in ‘Jidariyat Asila wa-l-Bi’a al-Hadariyya’ distributed in Morocco c.1978; repr. in al-Fann al-‘Arabi, no.4 (1981). Translated from Arabic by Mandy McClure in Lenssen, Anneka, A. Rogers, Sarah, and Shabout, Nada. Modern Art in the Arab World, Primary Documents. New York, USA: The Museum of Modern Art, 2018. [P.420]

[7]Maraini, Toni. “The Bauhaus and Morocco - Articles.” bauhaus imaginista. Accessed July 10, 2020. http://www.bauhaus-imaginista.org/articles/256/the-bauhaus-and-morocco.

[8]Zāhī Farīd al-. D'un Regard, L'autre: L'art Et Ses méditations Au Maroc. Rabat, Morocco: Marsam, 2006. [P.48]

[9]Zāhī Farīd al-. D'un Regard, L'autre: L'art Et Ses méditations Au Maroc. Rabat, Morocco: Marsam, 2006. [P.30]

[10]Response of Mohammed Hamidi to the Artist’s Questionnaire, Souffles, no.7/8 (1967) in Lenssen, Anneka, A. Rogers, Sarah, and Shabout, Nada. Modern Art in the Arab World, Primary Documents. New York, USA: The Museum of Modern Art, 2018. [P.273]

Sources

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

Adam Jürgen Axel, and Florian Hufnagl. Marokkanische Teppiche Und Die Kunst Der Moderne, Moroccan Carpets and Modern Art. Stuttgart, Germany: Arnoldsche, 2013.

Aroussi, Moulim el., and Brahim Alaoui. Peinture Marocaine 1950-2010: Collection Elisabeth Bauchet-Bouhlal. Marrakech, Morocco: ES-SAADI Garden & Resort, 2010.

Benchemsi, Rajae, and Farid Belkahia. Farid Belkahia. Milano, Italy: Skira, 2013.

Bloom, Jonathan, and Sheila Blair. The Grove Encyclopedia of Islamic Art and Architecture. Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press, 2009.

Eigner, Saeb. Art of the Middle-East, Modern and Contemporary Art of the Arab World and Iran. London, UK: Merell Publishers Limited, 2011.

Lenssen, Anneka, A. Rogers, Sarah, and Shabout, Nada. Modern Art in the Arab World, Primary Documents. New York, USA: The Museum of Modern Art, 2018.

Montazami, Morad. “La Galerie L’Atelier : Le Musée sans Murs Du Modernisme Transméditerranéen.” Perspective, no. 2 (2017): 221–28. https://doi.org/10.4000/perspective.7748.

Pieprzak, Katarzyna. “Art in the Streets: Modern Art, Museum Practice and the Urban Environment in Contemporary Morocco.” Review of Middle East Studies42, no. 1-2 (2008): 48–54. https://doi.org/10.1017/s0026318400051518.

Zāhī Farīd al-. D'un Regard, L'autre: L'art Et Ses méditations Au Maroc. Rabat, Morocco: Marsam, 2006.

“À Propos · School of Casablanca.” School of Casablanca. Accessed June 23, 2020. https://schoolofcasablanca.com/fr/.

Powers, Jean Holiday. “Published.” Casablanca School - Routledge Encyclopedia of Modernism, 2016. https://www.rem.routledge.com/articles/casablanca-school.

Lakrissa, Fatima Zahra. “École Des Beaux-Arts De Casablanca (1964–1970) - Articles.” bauhaus imaginista. Accessed June 10, 2020. http://www.bauhaus-imaginista.org/articles/2413/e-cole-des-beaux-arts-de-casablanca-1964-1970?0bbf55ceffc3073699d40c945ada9faf=ppq3kadfmlm2tm02ime94tk3q0.

Maraini, Toni. “The Bauhaus and Morocco - Articles.” bauhaus imaginista. Accessed July 10, 2020. http://www.bauhaus-imaginista.org/articles/256/the-bauhaus-and-morocco.

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