Hosfelt Gallery’s current presentation of new paintings by Algerian-born, Düsseldorf-residing painter Driss Ouadahi in “Breach the Silence” confronts pertinent global themes with moving and powerfully subversive acts of painting. Ouadahi, born in Morocco unto Algerian political exiles and now living and working in Düsseldorf, is one of several prominent artists in the city with whom Hosfelt Gallery has developed a strong relationship, which provides the local area a glimpse into this vibrant arts community in Germany. Ouadahi studied architecture in Algeria before immigrating to Germany, where he then pursued painting. Utilizing these particularly disparate visual vocabularies, and the dichotomy of cultures wherein he learned them, Ouadahi’s large-scale paintings borrow from both modern, abstract Western art and traditional Islamic motifs, while tackling the tense and timely topic of human migration.
Ouadahi’s pervading use of chain-link fences, places of traffic and movement like subway tunnels, and imposing, foreboding structures that block the pictorial plane but which can be seen through, give a fractured image of what lies beyond and prompts political and psychological considerations of boundaries and the effects of it upon society, economies, and cultures on both sides of that borderline. The somewhat modern use of fencing imagery (although in Ouadahi’s work reference is made to early modern abstracted grid paintings) is brought to the fore as both an integral part of the painting and what keeps the viewer out of the painting. It is a debasing and deeply divisive symbol signifying relations towards “the other”. The fence, a starkly figurative element layered upon an expressionist-like colorfield, is often across the picture plane as an unbroken barrier, but more often slashed open like a large sore, or willfully bent, evidencing a struggle between it and another willful force. Ouadahi’s work gives no indication of the final outcome of this struggle; the battle continues on. His use throughout of an abstracted landscape just beyond an impediment lends to a reading of the unknown or uncertain future while concurrently an uncertain past left behind. For that unknown figure or object that does engage with overpowering or transitioning from the obstacle, one can expect more of a state of limbo instead of Utopia just out of reach.
Driss Ouadahi, “Breach in the Silence” will be at Hosfelt Gallery through August 20, 2016.