Farid Belkahia

Morocco 1934-2014.

"Farid Belkahia consistently and deliberately makes his work with raw material that has a direct reference to the tribal life of the Moroccan hinterland. However in his case this approach is not used primarily to evoke a heritage or an image of rustic authenticity. His formal sophistication and a sense of disciplined devotion to the material manages to avoid a fetishization of the “authentic.” Perhaps this is due to his understanding of the material as lifted out of an economy of use, or a repository of cultural and material values contingent upon shifting conditions rather than fixed, ahistorical, romanticized identities. Belkahia’s ability to work in two separate registers—one, which is “clumsily” abstract and another, which is more referential—reiterates the material as a sort of ground zero through which a flexible usage is possible. What that means is that Belkahia is not trapped by his interest in what he is using but rather is able to proceed from there to produce and discover new forms and possibilities. This ability to flexibly treat the material in two contradictory modes ensures that the work does not descend into a series of problematic essentializations. On the one hand Belkahia reverently tackles his materials with an almost alchemical understanding. The animal hides he stretches taut and the dyes he uses to produce anamorphic fluid forms invite the viewer to perceive both an overall form, as well as act as an invitation to an encounter with that material itself. The ability to avoid melodramatic or symbolic gestures, their precision, the craftsman-like focus on articulation, the concise and condensed formalizations, make the work something other than merely a stand-in for ideology. This is presence without fetish. In Belkahia’s work the range from “uneasy” modernist icons like arrows or straight lines to historical documents means that we are able to access content without it being a comment on the situation it has come from. Belkahia’s work is metonymic rather than metaphoric."

- Excerpt from 'The case against continuity, or is it possible to be enchanted?' by Hassan Khan
Arab Art Histories - The Khalid Shoman Collection, published by The Khalid Shoman Foundation, 2013