Wild Garden, Kristin Hjellegjerde, London

Wild Garden, Kristin Hjellegjerde, London

Kristin Hjellegjerde GalleryWild GardensLondon - 05.09 - 05.10.2019

A masked man wearing a suit holds a sunflower over a black hole, whilst a line of men holding spades watch in the distance, their faces obscured by floral balaclavas. We wonder: is this man planting the flower, burying or stealing? Is this a ceremony, a dream, a nightmare? ‘Spy Flower’ is just one of the surreal scenes that Morocco-based artist Yassine Balbzioui presents in his latest exhibition entitled Wild Gardens at the Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery London. 

Mystery is at the centre of Balbzioui’s artistic practise; each painting is layered with narrative possibility, provoking the viewer to continue the creative process with their own imagination. Balbzioui typically works from an archive of collected images, film stills, travel photography and portraits that he takes of subjects wearing costumes and masks.‘The mask is a way of protecting the self, but it is also a tool for performance and play,’ commented the artist. Notably, all of the figures in this latest body of work are either wearing masks that reveal only their eyes, or appear to be hiding behind various objects. The effect is as humorous as it is disconcerting. ‘Bad Disguise’, for example, depicts a figure wearing a tutu skirt and what looks like swimming goggles, an image that is imbued with innocent childhood theatrics, whilst the recurring figures of masked suited men possess darker undertones.

This tension between danger and play is another key theme in the artist’s work, and one that draws parallels with the tradition of fairy tales. This is most evident in Balbzioui’s series of round paintings. The curved canvases, reminiscent of portholes, provide portraits of curious, fantastical characters such as ‘Zebra Man’whose face is made up of a bull’s-eye circular pattern, or the spectral figure of ‘Le Jongleur’ who is depicted juggling three giant pairs of scissors. Both these characters are simultaneously playful and unnerving in their suggestion of literal or potential mutilation. Standing in front of the paintings, you are struck by the sense of spying on something secret and otherworldly. 

‘The forest is a silent space where we can do wild things, where we can be animals,’ said Balbzioui, commenting on the exhibition’s title which takes its name from the predominant background scenery in these paintings. At times, the artist’s characters appear deep within a blanket of green, whilst at others, the forest looms behind them. We might recall Grimms’ fairy tales that often involve a journey into the woods, a place of unknown dangers and yet, as Balbzioui comments, forests also provide space for exploration, contemplation and possibility. Analysing the imagery of forests in literature psychologist Carl Jung commented that they’re ‘essentially culturally elaborated representations of the contents of the deepest recesses of the human psyche.’ In this context, we can understand Balbzioui’s lush, green setting and surreal scenes as a visual projection of the artist’s unconscious mind. Indeed, the artist describes his practise as spontaneous, insisting that the final outcome is always a ‘surprise’. 

It is this sense of uncovering that is so seductive about the work. The images appear familiar, whilst continually denying the satisfaction of full recognition ‘All of my paintings are a resistance against the banality of the world, against the speed of things,’ commented Balbzioui. Whilst we are bombarded with imagery in our everyday lives, Balbzioui’s work provides an escape, a pause and most importantly, the provocation to be curious.

Yassine Balbzioui Hiding with love, 2018
Solo show « MAD » Iwalewahaus Museum

Solo show « MAD » Iwalewahaus Museum

IwalewahausYassine Balbzioui: MADBayreuth, Germany - 07.06 - 07.09.2019

It is good relationships with an institution that is important for artistic freedom, emphasizes Yassine Balbzioui, the performance and multi-media artist living in Marrakech, Morocco, over and over again. The collaboration with Yassine Balbzioui has existed for several years and covers various forms such as performance workshops with young people, porcelain objects with the Bayreuth-based factory Valkyrie and the production of the opera Ghost Flowers at the Richard Wagner Museum in 2018. Enabled by the Freundeskreis Iwalewahaus eV Yassine Balbzioui created in 2017 a large mural for the Iwalewahaus as Kunst am Bau, which stretches across the second and third floors of the staircase.
For the first time, an exhibition will give a comprehensive overview of the diverse work of Yassine Balbzioui and bring his cosmology to life. We show the entire work with the University and City of Bayreuth in the last eight years. The diversity of themes in Balbziouis’ work comes to the fore. For one thing is important in the work in addition to the extraordinary visionary and bold quality of artistic work: The absolute freedom and accessibility of his presentations to the public. This is what makes Yassine Balbzioui so captivating: the dissolution of unnecessary categories shared sensual experience and social relevance.

Curation: Katharina Fink & Nadine Siegert
Curation Assistance: Huriye Şahin

Kubatana at Vestfossen Kunstlaboratorium May 2019

Kubatana at Vestfossen Kunstlaboratorium May 2019

Vestfossen KunstlaboratoriumKubatanaNorway, 4 May - 21 September 2019

An Exhibition with Contemporary African artists curated by Kristin Hjellegjerde

For its spring 2019 season opening, Vestfossen Kunstlaboratorium in Oslo is delighted to host a major survey show of contemporary artistic practice across the African continent. Curated by London-based Norwegian gallerist Kristin Hjellegjerde, Kubatanais the result of nearly two years of research, and brings together the works of 33 artists from 18 of Africa’s 54 countries across all four floors of the museum – one of the most expansive exhibitions of African art in Scandinavia to date. The variety of media and styles present – as well as themes and topics explored – reflect the immense cultural wealth and diversity of a continent home to multiple races, creeds, languages and cultures.

I present a wallpainting « Longspeech » of 8 meters.

Make this happen with the support of Maccalmuseum (Marakesh, Morocco).

Half Flying, Solo show – Kristin Hjellegjerde Berlin –  November 2018

Half Flying, Solo show – Kristin Hjellegjerde Berlin – November 2018

Kristin Hjellegjerde GalleryHalf FlyingBerlin - 14.11 - 22.12.2018

Mysterious masked figures and creatures appear from shadowy backgrounds as if walking in from another universe or time. Yassine Balbzioui invites the viewer into the world of the in-between, the point where reality and the imagination meet. In this space, anything is possible, be it birds dressed in suits or the state of Half Flying. The Moroccan-based artist’s debut exhibition at the Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery Berlin presents a new body of work that challenges all distinctions.

Balbzioui’s work is typically theatrical, humorous and multilayered. Drawing on his own experience of performance, Balbzioui imagines scenes cinematically and often photographs subjects wearing masks and costumes. These images form the catalyst for an idea, eventually emerging as the curious characters we see in the artist’s paintings. Furthermore, the deliberate obscuring of identity opens up a multitude of possible narratives and associations. We might, for example, interpret the wearing of a mask as an act of hiding or deceit, or as a declaration of freedom in which the individual transcends the boundaries of their physicality to experiment with new ways of being. Thus, Balbzioui evades explanation, encouraging us to view without preconceptions. “I don’t want to teach people. I want people to be curious, I want people to ask questions,” commented the artist. “Each painting, contains three or four stories, not just one.”

The striking portrait of “Yellow Boy” depicts a small boy standing in a pose of apparent dejection. Wearing a yellow mask and hood with a cape tied around his neck, we instantly recognise the costume of a super hero. Take a closer look at the cape and we see that the fabric is patterned with what we might imagine are the illustrations of the boy’s fantasies. All of these things are typical of child’s play and yet there is a palpable sadness in the painting, as if the boy is coming to terms with the very real realisation that he cannot fly. He is stuck at the cusp of an imagined world — an example of Balbzioui’s in-between spaces — which he can never enter into or fully materialise. In this way, we see the dark underside and frustrations of not just Balbzioui’s dream worlds, but of all dream worlds in the sense that they are always unattainable except within our minds.

This is also evident in “Hiding With Love.” At once evoking a classical setting — reminiscent of  Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet — and a strange no-place with a blackened background, the painting is imbued with tragic humour. The figure is reclining, clutching a bouquet of flowers and wearing a floral balaclava in half-disguise, whilst parrots perch around him. The birds — a recurring motif in Balbzioui’s work — are both symbolic of flight and the character’s inability to fly, whilst their ostentatious colours mock any attempts at hiding.

The same classical style sofa reappears in “Waiting for Action Movie”, a painting which also further illustrates the multiple layers at play in Balbzioui’s work. If we take the title into consideration, we might assume that the balaclava-wearing characters are actors waiting in-between takes. Caught in a limbo off set, the figures are half in character, half not; whilst they are still wearing their costumes, they show awareness of being looked at by posing for the “camera”, or the artist’s paintbrush. Thinking about contemporary culture and photography, we might consider how we play roles in our everyday lives, perhaps even as we enter a gallery to view artwork.

Balbzioui’s video performances further animate the theme of role playing. In the short film ‘The Fish Inside Me’, we see a masked figure attempting to row across a makeshift sea in a plastic wash tub with wooden sticks for oars. Whilst an amusing image, the painful noise of the tub scraping along the ground combined with the fixed gaze of the mask creates an unsettling atmosphere. The figure appears physically otherworldly and yet his inability to unleash his inner fish is marked by the volume of the sound, as if voicing his frustration. In the video ‘Khalimna’, the performers engage more explicitly in the absurd. Here we have figures wearing giant, colourful animal masks riding around on bicycles in the woods, a man wiggling across the ground in a silver tube, another man attempting to read whilst milk is poured onto his head, a man wearing a lion mask in a paddling pool, two men pillow fighting wearing tights as long, thin trunks whilst a sped-up audio track plays in the background. At several points in the video, the third-wall of performance is broken down as we see the actors laughing at themselves or the images that surround them, encouraging us to view the artwork as an experiment in fun.

We see the bird motif return in “Queen hate jumping” in which the characters appear to be dressed for performance as an ostrich, and in the large-scale mural “Crazy Clouds”, but here man and bird have combined to form a hybrid creature which takes centre stage in a hallucinogenic landscape of bright colours and swirling images. We might wonder whether this is the artist is offering us a wry solution to the limitations of humanity. “Humour is so important,” commented Balbzioui, “because it opens the door to more possibilities.”

Indeed, Half Flying is an exhibition that presents us, most significantly, with possibility. The possibility to exist in two worlds and states at the same time, to avoid definition or finality, and to float between. At a time when contemporary culture increasingly demands that we split ourselves between work and home, our real and digital lives, Balbzioui’s work offers us a place to remain still and contemplate different ways of being.

Yassine Balbzioui Hiding with love, 2018
Yassine Balbzioui Hiding with love, 2018

AKAA Paris – Kristin Hjellegjerde Galerie

AKAA Paris – Kristin Hjellegjerde Galerie

AKAA Paris – Kristin Hjellegjerde Galerie

AKAA Also know as Africa, Paris
9 – 11 NOVEMBER 2018

Yassine Balzbioui presented by
Kristin Hjellegjerde Galerie,
Berlin – London

Booth C10

Primo Marella Gallery THE BLACK SPHINX II, From Morocco to Madagascar

Primo Marella Gallery THE BLACK SPHINX II, From Morocco to Madagascar

13 September – 31 October, 2018

1 June – 7 September, 2018

Yassine Balbzioui, The Black Sphinx II, Primo Marella Gallery 2018
FEATURED ARTISTS: Ghizlane Sahli (Morocco), Yasmine Ben Khelil (Tunisia), Ifeoma U. Anyaeji (Nigeria), Marie-Claire Messouma Manlanbien (Ivory Coast), Houda Terjuman, Yassine Balbzioui (Morocco), Amina Zoubir (Algeria), Troy Makaza (Zimbabwe), Januario Jano (Angola) and Joël Andrianomearisoa (Madagascar)