Thursday, June 07, 2012

Art on Display During Fes Festival

While the Fes Festival promises sublime music, an exhibition opening tonight will be a feast for the eyes. New York artist David Packer and Moroccan artists Younes Bekkali and Mikou are displaying their very different work at Dar Tazi, the site of the nightly Sufi concerts during the Festival, until June 17.
The Wheel of Fortune

David Packer's Astrolabes

Packer's collages of astrolabes are a progression from his sculptures in his exhibition at the French Institute last February.

He describes the ancient inclinometers, used in the medieval Islamic world as navigational aids and a way of finding the direction of Mecca, as "a powerful image of Arab culture and intellectual life."

While elaborate and attractive pieces of art, Packer's collages contain unexpected materials, such as cigarette packets, a photograph of a television aerial, train tickets, playing cards and maps of Morocco. He describes these things, which he has gathered locally, as "pointers in peoples' lives".

"It's a way of finding yourself," he says. While the work using the cigarette packets to decorative effect is titled Peregrinations, which Packer describes as an "elegant walk among the ruins", another contains a map of the stars, as they will look above Fez on June 12.

"Astrolabes are a place holder for what I want to talk about," says Packer. "We are globally confined, lost and disoriented. It's a global thing, not just a Moroccan one."

Packer is nearing the end of his nine month stint in Fez, on a senior research fellowship as part of the Fulbright program.

He was born in England and has lived in the United States since 1983. Since graduating from Florida State University, Tallahassee, with an MFA in 1994, he has exhibited extensively, with one person shows in galleries in New York, Chicago and Miami.

To see David Packer's website, CLICK HERE. 

Younes Bekkali's Pop Art

Originally from Fez, Bekkali has lived all his adult life in San Francisco. While his initial ambition was to be a painter, "there was no way to study it abroad". Instead, he turned his attention to graphic art, studying a Bachelor and a Masters in Fine Arts Advertising at the University of San Francisco.

In 2000, Bekkali returned to Morocco to run his own advertising agency, however in 2005, a serious illness forced him to reconsider his chosen path and he returned to painting. Partially paralysed following a serious operation, he can not paint with his right hand and has successfully taught himself to do so with his left hand.

He now lives for six months a year in Fez and six months in Norway.

Bekkali's paintings show parts of the Fez Medina as it has never been seen - through a palette of bright colours, which create an almost abstract image of traditional scenes. Using pictures of scenes he sources from the internet, such as the external balconies of Bou Lakhisisat in the Mellah, he superimposes "my own colours and aesthetic to give it a very different feel".

Other paintings resemble a birds eye view of the Fez Medina, but this is coincidental - they are in fact a depiction of a boat sinking.

He says the process of painting has greatly helped him through his illness. "It makes me feel really peaceful...any day in life is good."

Mikou's trip through colour

Fez based Mikou goes by just one name and describes himself as an "autodiadect painter". His swirling abstract paintings are galaxies of bright colour, which can suggest different images to each viewer.

Mikou says he has been painting since he was a child. "Then I made my grandfather’s portrait; unfortunately, my picture did not have the success I was wishing for."

Years later, he says he found out "the meaning of love." While the relationship wasn't successful, "because of this failure I discovered a crazy passion of colours and paint".

"One day during a field trip, I sadly lost my father in a car accident. He was a great person to my eyes as well as a great artist. This shock created mixed feelings for me; a mix of love of colors and a new light; the light of God."

Nowadays, Mikou continues to find spiritual sustenance in his work. "All my art pieces reflect a marriage between colour and the permanent existence of the all-powerful God."

The exhibition opens tonight, Thursday June 7 at 7pm at the Fondation Esprit de Fès, Dar Tazi, Sidi Al Khayat, Batha, Fez and continues daily until June 17. 

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