By his own admission, Driss Ouadahi has been working with architectural subjects since his childhood, when he remembers making houses from small stones in Algeria where he was raised by Moroccan parents. His artistic trajectory has been interested in the lines and structure of architecture for at least the past 20 years and that is made clear by the inclusion of a work from 2005 in his latest exhibition, which opened on May 15 in Lawrie Shabibi Gallery in Alserkal Avenue, Dubai.
Carcasse/Heimat (2005) is a large format painting made after a trip back to Algeria from Dusselldorf, where he now lives and works. The painted grid-lines upon which flakes of cracked paint give texture and depth are seen in this work as a barrier or indeed a window – and that distinction is purposely blurred. Ouadahi was struck by the physical boundaries in the city of Algiers and how different groups of society are segregated by the heavy concrete of modernist buildings and so, with this seemingly simple painting of a grid or fence, Ouadahi tackles the politics of class, religion, and ethnicity.
By placing this work in the Extra Muros exhibition, the gallery is also presenting the journey of Ouadahi’s oeuvre over the past decade and a half. Seen alongside pieces such as Tenir sur un fil and Funambule from 2019 the threads of his earlier urban landscape paintings can be identified but there is a development in style with a focus on light and transparency rather than a social commentary.
Other of his most recent works are abstract explorations of painting that play with light and evoke an emotional response as well as displaying his innovative and experimental style. In Eclat from 2017, pieces of the grid are disjointed and float through empty space causing a disorienting feeling of weightlessness and in Ethereal (2019), this meditative quality is also present.
At once a commentator on urban living whilst at the same time experimenting with geometry and light, this is Ouadahi’s third solo show at the gallery and it truly displays his versatility as a painter.
Driss Ouadahi: Extra Muros. May 15 – September 1, 2019. Lawrie Shabibi Gallery, Alserkal Avenue, Dubai.