«Time passes, but the oeuvre remains»
Seddik Slimani is a Moroccan artist and sociologist living in Spain for 12 years now.
His interest in the transformation of people and art go hand in hand, his pictorial work being a reflection of the changes taking place in Africa and Europe since the beginning of the Arab Springs.
Being abstraction where he feels most comfortable, Seddik Slimani subtly denounces through his work power and repression exerted over people, the fleeing of refugees, the borders they are confronted with in Europe and their grieving personal stories.
Slimani is an observant and reflective artist concerned about global problems, traits which do not lessen his optimism in the creation of a better society.
– You had a formal education in Sociology in Morocco, why did you choose this specialty?
Because I wanted to be honest with myself, I have always been an observer of the environment. I liked the study of sociology for it covers the knowledge of how societies and how people function in their socio-cultural manifestation, all of this is of great interest to me.
Something was throbbing in the depths of myself, being dragged by the beauty of Morocco where I was born, its simplicity and its complexity at the same time.
Life’s way of manifesting itself –its diversity– always made me question, I consider it a mystery to work out. I looked at my grandmother with her face crossed by beautiful wrinkles, irradiating peace and sincerity. That face fascinated me whilst raising questions. The talks with her and the questions I asked her helped me to learn deeply about the traditions and the soul of my people. Thus what began simply through my curiosity ended up creating authentic intimacy and complicity between us …
So I was gradually drawing back the Veil of Isis, the hidden knowledge and clarifying the mystery.
After some time and without much thinking about it I found myself navigating in the field of human sciences.
«I looked at my grandmother with her face crossed by beautiful wrinkles, irradiating peace and sincerity. That face fascinated me whilst raising questions»
– You have been painting for more than 20 years, how did you start in art?
I remember there was already an interest in art in my social and family surroundings.
I was particularly interested in knowing who the first artists were –rupestrian artists– and how did they start working. The representative scenes of prehistoric animal hunting ritual captured my attention.
A variety of images started to invade my mind and my whole being that I materialized on a simple sheet of paper with just a pencil. My family environment encouraged my still incipient interest in art. I was only a child when I began to take my first steps, any little progresses I was making amazed me and motivated me to continue. I did not attend drawing classes, I was totally self-taught. I remember feeling really happy with my progress.
Then I lived intensely different stages which led me to a more complete, more real knowledge of both society and art. Eventually my knowledge has been enhanced, leading up to the abstract and informalist art with which I feel identified.
«I lived intensely different stages which led me to a more complete, more real knowledge of both society and art»
– Why did you go for abstraction and informalism?
My first attempts were in Morocco by intuitively adding different materials to the flat surface of the canvas. Landscapes and colours of my country led me to further this technique in a natural way. After some time upon my arrival in Spain I realized some great artists already worked the same way.
I was very happy to find artists who pioneered this revolutionary way of expression, an art that is more complete to me. Even feeling myself bound to the abstract movement, I am the usual nonconformist, like in my childhood. Who knows what destiny will bring me?
There were a multitude of emotions, thoughts and feelings that have grown in my interior, like the seed falling on the ground and gradually germinating. That is how a transformation was taking place inside me which led me to confront, face to face, not only with beauty but with what lies behind it. There is a mystery in all things that is perceptible only to those who dare to draw that veil, the veil of art, art with capital letters.
«Even feeling myself bound to the abstract movement, I am the usual nonconformist»
«There is a mystery in all things that is perceptible only to those who dare to draw that veil, the veil of Art, Art with capital letters»
– What materials are you employing to elaborate your work?
Any material may be useful and suggestive when your creative desire induces you to look for possible applications … each of them leads you to a place or a situation because of its texture or colour. These might be a piece of plaster, recycled cardboard, wood, flour, marble dust, charcoal, fabrics, ropes … the list would be very long.
– Your first exhibiting incursion in Europe was at the Marseille International Fair in France, how was the reception for your work?
The exhibition at the international fair in Marseille was interesting and my work was well received, although being this city an important artistic centre, Madrid was, according to the news that came from different sources, the city that really suited my growth and development in the professional world of contemporary art. This city produced great artists or also welcomed them, and is a world reference for creativity.
So, in this way and in a short time I turned my head towards Madrid. It called me, I could not resist. I bought the ticket to Spain and finally I found myself in the capital I fancied.
– How was your arrival in Spain and how is your current situation? What did Madrid represent to you?
My arrival in Spain is that of a man with little money in his pocket and a heart full of wealth to start developing my work. A few relatives I had in Madrid came to meet me and gave all their support, my arrival could not be happier. They guided me, I listened to all their advice, but my main concern at that time was how could I get the most basic to start … from a job with which to pay bills to a studio where I could develop my work. The reason why we live and fight … finally prevails.
Spain welcomed me with open arms, more than I thought, and thanks to new friendships with artists and to the possibilities Madrid offers, I can only thank life. I feel that somehow in debt with Spain, because under its sky my name and work may become known and recognized. I have to thank all of you helping me to continue on this path.
Madrid represents the growth any artist may need, for me it is a place of opportunities. What more can I say?
«From Madrid to the sky»
That’s what the people from Madrid say (laughs)
«Madrid represents the growth any artist may need, for me it is a place of opportunities»
– Your studio is located in La Silvestre, in Madrid, a multidisciplinary space shared with other visual artists. How is your work there?
La Silvestre is the centre for trial and research I share with artists from different backgrounds, this makes it quite fulfilling. There is my studio where I work every week. Every day we search for new materials with which to obtain some not yet known product in order to incorporate it into our production.
We constitute ourselves as a group seeking to transform traditional methods and techniques. For in our view the change of creative procedures is where the revolution is generated, as it happened with informalism and many other artistic styles.
In La Silvestre we frequently receive visiting gallery owners, art historians, curators or journalists interested in our activity and discuss our work with them. We also participate in initiatives such as Open Studios to present our work to professionals and general public.
«The change of creative procedures is where the revolution is generated»
– How is your relationship with the artist and gallery manager Carlos Moltó?
I have a very personal gratitude to Carlos, he is a great artist and I have always taken his opinion into account. In my first steps in the world of art in Madrid he was my guide and continues to represent for me a great master from whom I always receive an interesting and different point of view that helps me to develop my work. I have been invited by him to exhibit a large part of my work in his gallery. It is a pleasure to have professionals like him to work with and exchange opinions.
– Your work is influenced by the Arab Spring, what did this social movement represent for you and your environment? How is it affecting your work?
The Arab Spring meant not only for me but for the whole world a vision of events which caused much suffering. This «spring» shocked many artists sensitive to great human tragedies.
As a sociological phenomenon, Its occurrence had very particular characteristics and largely involved the struggle for human ideals of equality and respect, the search for better social justice.
We have seen this social justice in a very positive way in my homeland, Morocco, where the demands of the people are gradually being heard and there was not such a violent confrontation.
In my work – and also in my way of thinking – there is a parallel development between understanding history and art which is causing a kind of «change of setting» in me and that is reflected in my work. So my first beginnings in front of the canvas are those of capturing all the protagonists of this spring: suffering peoples and governments ready to maintain their traditional perspective.
The chair or armchair emerges as a symbolic expression of the power that settles into it and its attitude of sitting tight, of immobilism.
But the lament of the victims who suffer this oppression affect my mood and I have to reflect it in my painting in some way, almost as a therapy. Now my attention is focused on finding the materials that can resemble that oppression, like ropes or cloths of the refugees clothings. I believe I’m getting it in a way, but my satisfaction is not complete, I need to introduce something new that reflects more accurately my concerns.
«In my work – and also in my way of thinking – there is a parallel development between understanding history and art which is causing a kind of «change of setting» in me and that is reflected in my work»
«The lament of the victims who suffer this oppression affect my mood and I have to reflect it in my painting in some way, almost as a therapy»
– You classify your oeuvre in two stages, how do they differ and what motivated the change from one to the other?
My work could be summarized in principle with the themes of the armchair or chair of power and a second stage covers the issue of refugees and consequently borders, which thousands of human beings try to tresspass to reach other nations.
The first stage is a two-dimensional painting, in which I apply pigments with sand and marble dust.
The second stage arises from the need to reflect or provide a «more complete information» since what was painted on the canvas in two dimensions was not enough to reflect what I was worried about, the refugees. Thus introducing certain materials which bring three-dimensionality to the canvas such as strings or cloths comes up, referring to these people and those borders.
– In your last stage, you focused on the drama of the refugees, how is it reflected in your work?
I usually stay in touch with institutions offering asylum to foreigners in Spain, it is a good opportunity to know better and more directly about them, their history, their difficulties and hardships. Their testimonies impact me so much that sometimes I skip dinner to go to the studio and reflect as much as possible what I just heard from their stories. I have a tendency to observe others, either as a sociologist or as an artist, and can not help feeling identified with their suffering. They represent heads and tails of the same coin: the one that smiles and the other … well, better not to talk about that other side …
This is what I consider my mission as an artist: to transfer to the canvas the empathy I feel with the pain of those who suffer. Sometimes there is no pictorial work with which to describe it.
«This is what I consider my mission as an artist: to transfer to the canvas the empathy I feel with the pain of those who suffer. Sometimes there is no pictorial work with which to describe it»
– How do you see the situation in Morocco at this time? And from Spain?
Both nations are experiencing deep crises that affect education, health, justice … but this also happens at the global level, all countries are undergoing a transformation. Our world, our countries are experiencing a crisis in all these aspects, I hope it is only a passing episode.
But I’m optimistic. Spain is a welcoming country like no other in the world and Morocco is very close, only fourteen kilometers separate both shores. The relationship between both countries is good, bearing in mind difficulties that may arise.
– Where would you like to see your work exposed in the future and what kind of professional contacts would you like to establish?
At this moment I am interested in contacting art galleries, and I am making my work known to art historians, cultural managers and curators in my studio.
But I know it’s a long road, and to reach a high goal one has to go through other stages first. The world of contemporary art is also a competitive one and everything happens very quickly. Time passes, but the oeuvre remains. Little by little the public gets to know and appreciate my work, and also the values it represents. I wish my work was appreciated for its contribution and what it represents for mankind.
«I wish my work was appreciated for its contribution and what it represents for mankind»
– A wish you would like to come true
My great wish is for human beings to be free from slavery one day not too far away. For the sad story of the refugees to be finally over, the chairings and barbed wire disappear altogether …
seeing instead smiling faces and a new world where peace beauty and happiness unite us all.
«My great wish is for human beings to be free from slavery one day not too far away. For the sad story of the refugees to be finally over, the chairings and barbed wire disappear altogether …»