News from infinity
by Rémi Labrusse
Najia Mehadji’s work, rather than claiming to give a dogmatic answer to this question, is driven by the desire to simply dig deeper and deeper into it, or more exactly to resonate the mystery of it. There is no doubt that nothing expresses better this recognition of the mystery of the process of externalisation, the unearthing of the image, than her most recent works, gouaches created by a single movement of the hand with a large brush coated with white or black – the Volutes, Touches, Arabesques or the Danses mystiques. Here, the viewer is tempted to track the movement by identifying its start point and end point but the start – the point where the brush was laid on the surface of the paper – is often invisible and only the end of its movement is spectacularly asserted like a real explosion. As if the image wanted to signify that it is unaware of its own origin – also, in other words, that it is rooted in the non-image, in the invisible. Another recent symptom of this introspective approach is to be found in the artist’s digital works where she explores the confrontation between an original pictorial imprint and mechanical processes of reproduction – the Suites goyesques in 2007, the Danses mystiques in 2011 –, as if, this time, it was a matter of putting to work the friction between embodiment and disembodiment, between the body and the machine, between living motion and dead image.
Beyond any specific work, Najia’s attachment to the decorative expresses the constant friction between critical interrogation of the fact of becoming an image and sensible experience of the inner subjective life. Who’s afraid of decoration? Everyone who thinks that the visible image is in itself endowed with an ontological legitimacy, that it represents, as an object, the truth of being. But this is what is denied by ornament, the paradoxical substance of decor. Although all decoration makes shapes and, by these shapes, suggests a vision of the world, equally, all decoration relativises this vision, and ultimately dissolves it in a perpetual movement of curves, counter-curves and arabesque intertwining over which the eye dances rather than stops. So what becomes lighter and lighter to the point of evanescence is objectivity as such, the claim by appearances to be the legitimate messengers of reality. And what grows, on the other hand, is an infinite free will, enchanted with itself, contaminating the reign of the visible by an inner tonality: that of the human act as such, the pure praxis which, in the creative exercise of the motion, discovers its infinite and autonomous glory. Decoration is about nothing other than this: the irrigation and destabilisation of the world of objects by the expressive power of the ornamental gesture – so that, under the order it sometimes seems to impose, a bursting and perpetually expanding disorder rises up. In the ascension from the inner essence to the outer brought about by decoration, we see the contamination of the second by the first; lightly, obstinately, joyously, the unsayable surges into the sayable, loses itself and disappears there but is constantly reborn there. This is what creates the power of seduction of any decorative project, its uncanny strangeness: deep down, despite all attempts to burden it with the order of discourse – religious, political, worldly –, decoration is a messenger of an uncontrollable invisible, it blows where it wants, when it wants, and constantly renews itself so its aberrant and marvellous traces can mysteriously innervate and sap the self-importance of the practical world.
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