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Mohamed L’Ghacham's Familiar Lives

Words:

Edd Norval
October 9, 2019

Accurately capturing familiar scenes, where the subjects know and love each other, is one of the hardest things for an artist to do. These people look at each other like they're perfect, with the sharp edges of reality rounded off by love. Details that only a family recognise can easily go overlooked by outsiders. Yet, Mohamed L’Ghacham chose family as the muse for his paintings, choosing to tell their very personal stories.

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Although people feature in his murals, it's not the people that stand out for who they are as much as what they're doing. The settings are very standard, everyday, commonplace. But it's these moments, completely unguarded and seemingly unrestricted, that disarms the audience and invites them into the most personal of narratives.


His depictions are more akin to canvas than can, drawing on a deep colour palette found in vintage photographs. These photographs are often blemished in some form, developed unevenly or with slightly obscured focus.


Often the faces seem to be blurred, as if the photograph itself is affected by memory, where the most important details are the first ones to become blurred. Minor in their original size, when blown-up to cover a wall, our eyes are drawn to every single thing, even the ones that might initially have been overlooked as insignificant. Such details, like a kitchen utensil or background figure opens up a whole world of intrigue. These are real lives and we want to know more about them.

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By connecting the photograph with the lived environment, L’Ghacham offers a potential answer to a very natural human curiosity - what's happening in other peoples lives? It's like his walls become transparent, offering us a sepia-tinted look at what happened there many years ago - despite the photographs not actually coming from that exact place at all.


Matching palette to surroundings also integrates the photographs in a sort of naturalistic way, situating them in everyday moments, where passersby might easily walk absentmindedly passed. Their subtlety makes noticing them even more emotionally resonant, akin to the feeling we get when walking into a tender moment that wasn't meant for us.


Most of the characters seem deeply absorbed in the situation at hand, even those who know they're posing for the photograph. This isn't Instagram and filters, where the best of 10 pictures stays - it's usually a one off and the moment it captures is all the more precious for that.

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Born in Morocco, a country with a strong tradition for family and community, has no doubt impacted the young artists sensibility. With a strong air of classical art, the Barcelona-raised artist integrates the European mode of realism into a sort of dreamy aesthetic that flirts with a vaguely surrealist mode of thought.


Combining this unique outlook with the kind of political murals associated with the Mexican Muralism movement of the mid-20th century, where everyday life was elevated into the heroic and almost mythological, L’Ghacham's familiar family portraits are intriguing for their intimacy and honesty. They're moments we've never seen, but somehow know. They're moments that are new to use, yet ones we'll struggle to forget.

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