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When craftsmanship becomes art through a multi cutural journey

In the documentary Encré (Colorbox) Yassine Mekhnache explains how a speech block sprung from an experience at school encouraged him to create his own way to write. From almost obsessively drawing letters, characters, faces and abstract forms on his notebooks, he created a way to express himself and to find his own place at school and in society.

Yassine Mekhnache emerged as a graffiti artist in the early 2000’s. He later developed a technique that fuses traditional embroidery with vibrant expressive painted elements. In these paintings, Mekhnache also incorporates elements drawn with marker pen and dripping paint evoking a spirit found in his earlier street work.

My work springs from a never-ending quest for a language untaught, one liberated from the  shackles of the formal. Time in the studio was fundamental: the repetition of my graffiti  artist’s pseudonym morphed into a face on canvas.

"My work springs from a never-ending quest for a language untaught, one liberated from the shackles of the formal. Time in the studio was fundamental: the repetition of my graffiti artist’s pseudonym morphed into a face on canvas."

Starting out with canvases of woven cotton he starts each painting process with women embroiderers in Tamesloht near Marrakech in Morocco or men embroiderers from Pondicherry in India. Sessions of craftmanship and traditional embroidering repeated day after day by the same group of people become a ritual and the foundation of each art piece.

Yassine Mekhnache describes the unfoldment of events for each painting's process:

Indian craftsmen reinterpret the patterns and birds I’ve created; Moroccan embroiderers embellish and perpetuate the first ink spots spattered on cloth. It takes a human chain’s unfoldment to compose – or recompose – a truly complete work of art. Within this coming together of varying mediums, I imagine an invisible architecture, the merging of embroidery and painting between Morocco and India.

In my work, the artist’s and craftsman’s methods complement each other. Only the hand’s intelligence prevails. I prefer working without machines, creating indelible bonds between true craftsmanship, ancestral values and contemporary creations“, says Yassine Mekhnache.

When a embroidery is completed the canvas is washed and hanged to dry outside. Then it is shipped back to France and Yassine Mekhnache's studio where he begins a painting process.

"Each canvas keeps a precious record of the long journeys, the memories of the multiple encounters that triggered its birth: the one of an embroiderer whose traditional stitches repeat themselves under the sweltering Moroccan sun; or that of a cool and shady studio in Pondicherry where men, cross-legged on the floor, methodically adjust pearls and sequins around a pattern traced by the artist. And the last ritual, the one where the artist heads outside to meet with nature, to spot two trees in between which he will hang his work (…) long moments of silence and thoughtfulness ensue during which the painter goes back and forth, facing thepaintings or hovering over those sprawled out on the floor. And it all goes so fast, like an attack or wild embrace: without warning, the painter pellets the canvas with color striking it with his paint brush, brooms,rags..." - David Rosenberg, Art Director Opera Gallery Group.

"The Conference Of The Birds" is a special project that Yassine Mekhnache based out of the work of the Persian poet Farid ud-Din Attar, commonly known as Attar of Nishapur. As always with Yassine Mekhnache's work the artistic process began with traditoinal embroidery and from there the artistic process took the most incredible journey into the essence of the story of the birds.

"A literary and pictorial variation of Sufi mysticism, The Conference of the Birds, imposed itself on me some years ago thanks to a dear friend and filmmaker, Rachid Djaidani. This parallel between my work and the ancient Persian poet’s poem explores the myriad, sensitive, embryonic facets contained in Attar’s masterpiece, while furthering my exploration of the human portrait that began fifteen years ago." - Yassine Mekhnache.

In conjuction with our online exhibition "Retrospective 1", you will be able to follow and discover the story of the four artists: Yassine Mekhnache, TANC, Jonas SUN7 and LMDLDZR_ZeeR, through a series of blog posts related to the retrospective.

First out is Yassine "Yaze" Meckhanche. There will be exclusive behind the scenes material released for the first time, and close ups of his unique work techniques and artistic process.

Next up 9/30:

Yassine Mekhnache Part 3 - A chance to see the entire book LYFE, a rare and sold out edition by Yassine Mekhnache.

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