Fatiha Zemmouri

Bernard Collet


Tension of gesture, tension between materials; this is what characterizes the work of Fatiha Zemmouri. Materials of poetry, of memory, archi-texture, as she defines them, each one a pretext to evoke the power of the materials to transform themselves, to transform and to question us about not only their plastic qualities but also their symbolic power.

From black to white. From the presence destroyed, burnt by calcinated wood, by extinguished coal, or by the absence and purity of the white ceramics. From the mattness of certain effects of black paint to the occasional shimmer and gloss applied to ridges of burnt wood, all becomes symbol, an almost esoteric spirituality, in this constant quest for renewal and transformation beyond fractures or wounds; hollow gaps of matter, a potential metamorphosis. All is symbol in this subtle alchemy that plays out at the heart of the matter after the flames, the fusions, concretions of ash, all this black before the light, before these opalescent whites, fragile and lunar. No color. Red, perhaps, the red of fire. But mostly black and white. Everywhere, black matter in all its complexity.

One remembers the minimalism of those piles of cardboard boxes whose layers were as if contained by the weight of stones, a work of tension, coming from sculpture that questions the relationship between the hardness and the fragility of the material. Pictures with volume but unwilling to abandon the flatness of the surface, as though the objective were to never leave the field of painting. Fatiha Zemmouri today continues to pursue this panel work, this flat surface where she chooses to introduce her materials of preference, to carve out spaces, deep gashes, crevices that might seem to scream but that appear rather like the first steps of a rupture or cremation that would soon let the surface appear to us only as the simple expression of its framework.
The evidence lies in the work of fabric undergoing this transformation of loss, becoming simple gauzes pierced with emptiness, snags, and frays to the very edge of total decay. One might believe that the calcinated elements of the picture are fixed, that the wood crackled by fire has been rescued from the ashes by water, and that the rest of the surface remains intact, but it is far from that; it is but an illusion, a work in progress, and the metamorphosis continues, inevitable. A process is underway, one that can certainly be perceived as the parallel with the artist’s quest, as that is indeed what constitutes the metaphoric aspect of her work.

With this essential dimension, that of choosing not to introduce color, she actually introduces herself, black or white depending upon the materials employed, and does not decide upon form since it is fire that is the true sculptor. Consider also her ceramic creations, so fragile,
so transparent, and yet unable to dissimulate the 1000 degree heat that shaped them, the fire that twisted them and gave them consistency is at the origin of their very form.

Like the ultra-black of Soulages, here we mustn’t forget the black’s complicity with light, the interplay of matte and reflective surface, this dialogue that introduces volume and makes sense of things. Welcoming light into the matter; that is the issue at hand. Remembering also that this matter has become, in incandescence, of pure light, and therein still lies a residual light that Fatiha Zemmouri somehow renders visible to us. Black night, a black that contains the promise of dawn.

And the white, in the works where light creates volume and sculpts the material. Restorative fragilities cast upon the rifts act as traps to capture light. Contending interventions upon monochromatic surfaces, naked frameworks, but it is the light that creates the forms, and introduces zones of shadow and of black. Painting with this, the deconstruction of the matter and this absence of color, and making so that harmonies of black and white create their own shades of grey. With the white strata of the memory of some suffering that cannot be named and would be appeased, made bearable.

In an abstraction that carries within it the memory of the monochrome, be it black or white, Fatiha Zemmouri strives, as if in a spiritual quest, to explore the metaphorical power of matter as a source of life, showing us images that inevitably bring us back to our deepest being. The crevasses, the combustion, the laceration, the stitching the burning, so many images of wounds and of mutation both physical and moral that cannot leave us indifferent. Through the medium of matter, we perceive there a silence, in which, always, the body speaks.