An Introduction To My Work
For a long time I was in denial this subject would have a had any rightful place in my work, I thought that it would be possible to remove my identity entirely of my artistic practice. This attempt to escape was, in fact, a cowardly attempt to push away whatever stands at the core of myself as a human being and which results from a very particular era in the history of mankind. Embracing my identity and accepting my painful biography was one of the most difficult things in my evolution as an artist (and human being).
Art making, at least in my case, has no romance at all: it's like taking your clothes off a burnt skin, it’s giving birth to that which hurts, without any presumption nor regret, only a faint smell of shit.
I had a very difficult childhood and adolescence. Undoubtedly, that shaped my personality, actions and, consequently, my artistic practice. Indeed, this artistic practice is not something apart from my life. We are one. And, the more I accepted my haunting childhood fears, the more raw and “clean” my art became. Surely, more complex!
The conception of my studio (called the Cave) as a work of art in itself is the direct result of this acceptance. Therein everything is connected, all elements communicate with each other, from the scribbled floor (a talking map), to the pieces that hang from the ceiling like forgotten bodies. Between the light and the darkness it is also possible to distinguish the rooms of my heteronyms (Alice, Matilde, Constance, Odette, Louise, Helena and the Bird-Demon).
Writing, drawing, painting, installation, video and performance have a shared life within the Cave, and I say "life" because they really live there, communicate with each other, breathe, embody, transform... and, at the limit, they simple die.
When I came to Portugal I was around 3 years old, along with my mother who was fleeing from Algeria for the same reasons refugees are currently fleeing. My upbringing in Algeria and Portugal was very traumatizing and so, from a very young age, I took refuge in paintings, drawings and inventions. I spent endless hours inventing things, from paper and cardboard constructions to carving tunnels in the playground’s sand. I was so obsessive with this Place-Invented-By-Me that, when the glue stick ran out and my family couldn’t buy a new one because we were very poor, I would go to the supermarket and steal one or more. I would only rest when my construction was completed. By this time I was around 8 or 9 years old. The funniest thing was that I did not know what art was and I had never heard of it, so I was telling everyone I was going to be a Scientist because, to me, creating was a scientist’s thing (laugh!). Even today I am obsessed with my inventions in the Cave and I can’t sleep if I leave something unfinished.
The Cave is my sacred place and this* Place-Invented-By-Me*, it seems, is as old as I am! Art making is not just a desire or a life meaning purpose, it is what I am, my flesh here and now.
At the age of 18 I entered an art school where I gained contact with the knowledge and practice of others and there began my path as an artist. Still, seven years went by after graduation before I entered a master's degree in another university, where I’m currently developing my thesis.
The process as an artistic practice (much inspired by Pollock's action painting) began exactly as the complete negation of my identity and biography. After all, it is very painful to constantly give space in the present to the pain of the past. And the process, art for art’s own sake, is much easier to digest, is not it?
Actually I was too immature to understand the complexity of the web where I was woven. At the age of 18 I had no idea how to talk about sickness, Christianity, Islam, loss, eroticism, etecetera. Even today, I have serious doubts that I really know something for sure. This is all part of my life story, but I was not prepared to create things from it. Create (or generate) from pain and putrefaction? It seemed impossible to me. So, the process in my work began as an "alchemical" quest for the perfect blot. Each experiment is registered and numerically identified. I discovered the perfect blot on what I have come to call skins. These skins are basically very thin and translucent ink membranes for which I alone hold the "secret formula". These ink skins are created inside a 450 cm swimming pool, the centerpiece of my work, called the Womb. The Rooms of each one of my heteronyms are currently being built around this womb.
When I fearlessly embraced my own life in its wholeness, everything grew in my creation. I stopped thinking only of process to become The Process in itself. The existence of the Skin gives rise to questions about the body, the skeleton, the soul, the flesh, consciousness and the unconscious. In a way my ink skins became metaphors for all this. Metaphors for the complexity of Identity…
All of these elements I call in my thesis "The Process of Skin", where I developed my ideas about fragmentation, heteronym, uterus and the ego-skin described by the psychoanalyst Didier Anzieu and Freud and the theory of the body without organs of Artaud.
ND, 23/06/2017, part of interview on Not Random Art Magazine.