We are glad to unveil Omar Mahfoudi’s first major solo exhibition in France. El Dorado brings together the latest works from his Golden painting series, first unveiled last October at 1-54 London. On view from December 11, 2021— January 11, 2022, the dozen new works will be presented as a site-specific installation pursuing the nostalgic rêverie perceptible throughout his work.
Liquid landscapes and cryptic characters inhabit the art of Omar Mahfoudi. The Moroccan painter living in Paris proposes dreamlike painting, tainted with melancholy and mystery. He recently makes gold and its shades a ground for experimentation, in the continuity of his exploration around light.
WAITING IN MERZOUGA, 2021
Acrylic and ink on canvas
His solo show El Dorado, is an invitation on a trip to nowhere, offering an infinite number of possibilities at the discretion of the visitor. If the wandering silhouettes inside his canvases pose the questions: What are they looking for? Did they find it? Omar Mahfoudi asks the viewers themselves: What are you looking for? What is your utopia? Thus, through these waving lands, horizons of Japan, South America, and his native Morocco, El Dorado composes an initiatory Odyssey, a path through the limbos of our unconscious, toward a spiritual exile.
The legend of El Dorado has changed and morphed over time. What had once been a man covered with gold, El Dorado has become a promised land - Eldorado, the golden city - a metaphor for a utopia representing happiness, love, success. The object of desire has never really mattered, instead, it is the quest itself that inspires legend. Omar Mahfoudi makes this quest his own and turns it into a common mission by including those who find themselves in front of his works. In this way, his characters - transparent beings melting with their environment to make one, often without a face, origin or gender, mirror those observing them. Floating and anonymous outlines, tainted with a certain mystical ambiguity, they materialise their thoughts, spirit, and elevation. On horseback, on boat or on foot, they embody their own crossing.
The titles of Omar Mahfoudi’s canvases are themselves the chapters of the participatory story he presents through his brushstrokes. Through them, the artist sets up the decor, the characters, the feelings: waiting, nostalgia, regrets, but also love. These romantic influences also reflect on the theme of man facing nature, inherited from German Romanticism as well as the use of gold shades. Made from mysteries and disturbing veils, gold is a symbol of power and desire. Through a few visual clues, Mahfoudi seemingly invites his viewers into his own reverie. He encourages them to project on his art their own narrative. Echoing their personal stories and approach to the world, deserts of gold and infinite lands are their own and become the starting point for their adventures. The El Dorado is finally finding oneself.
Inspired by the cinematography of Andrei Tarkovsky and Werner Herzog, Omar Mahfoudi writes a universal and timeless tale. He provides his art with its very own space-time framework. Day and night are not relevant anymore. Is it dawn or sunset? Is it even a sun or a moon? The perfect geometry of the golden sphere, still at the centre of his artworks, contrasts with the aerial movement of the environment. By reflecting the light from outside of the canvas, it projects the artworks into another realm: the viewers’ - sending them back to their own position, being at the same time spectator and actor.
Omar Mahfoudi describes his birth town as the end of the land - in French finistère, which means by definition: an overhang of land on a body of water that marks the end of a continent. His landscapes, between dunes and aquatic spaces, evoke his childhood where the sea was the only border between “the other side” and the desert region of the north of Morocco. It’s from this distant fantasy that these golden territories emerge, mysterious and illusive. Naturally, earth and sea ripple and puzzle in his canvases. The ambiguity that weaves through his work, is a metaphor for the ambiguity of “El Dorado”, a utopia that exists without specific geography, population, or meaning.
Thus, facing Omar Mahfoudi’s characters, lost in the immensity of the canvases, the viewers are brought to ponder on the where, why, and if of their search. With no response to be found in Mahfoudi’s boundless horizons, one can’t but wonder whether these characters truly exist, or whether they are a pure creation of the mind, a reflection of oneself in a golden oasis.
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