Marrakech - Youssef Elkahfai, a painter, engraver and sculptor, has won worldwide fame for his compositions. He is undoubtedly one of the youngest painters in Morocco and continues to live and work in Marrakech, although his works appear in exhibitions all over the world.
Marrakech – Youssef Elkahfai, a painter, engraver and sculptor, has won worldwide fame for his compositions. He is undoubtedly one of the youngest painters in Morocco and continues to live and work in Marrakech, although his works appear in exhibitions all over the world.
At the moment he finds inspiration for his painting in the art of engraving, because he says that it creates results that surprise him. During the process of engraving, prints are transferred from a matrix such as a metal plate of copper, zinc or polymer. It is a different world from painting, but he finds that he gains inspiration for his painting from the process. His creative imagination, which inspires him, concentrates on art as a means of expression. His portraits catch his subjects frozen in time in a moment of deep reflection. The paintings have bright colors and light plays on the subject from different angles. Paint seems to drip to the edges of the canvas as if the act of creation is still fresh. In some of his portraits a second shadowy white face sometimes appears; whether it is another person or the subject just moved from another pose is not sure. It is a moment in time capturing a mood and the scene fused in color and light.
He engages freely with the art forms of painting, engraving and sculpture and each informs the other. His technical ability is not unlike a renaissance man spanning different artistic forms. His engraving links the artist with that technical ability of the artisan. He says he loves to touch and handle different materials and discover new experiences, opening the door to undiscovered things unknown before being captured on his canvas. It is a creative adventure and these different art forms push him to new discoveries. At present he is going through a period where his engraving is influencing his painting and he is not sculpting for the moment. His workshop is dominated by the stamping machine for his engraving and lithography and he conducts projects with art students.
Youssef Elkahfai is a speaker at the School for the Visual Arts in Marrakech (ESAV) and he initiates students into the process of graphic art and creating silk screen printing where a design is printed on screens one color at a time so several screens may be used to create a multi colored design or image.
At first, working with different art forms was a means of research but now it has become his passion and informs his creative drive. He constantly uses a mixture of different techniques and fusions of art forms. He says that for him there are two imperatives: to continue to create and the emergence of the creation. It’s a matter of how he views the subject and finding the right artistic pretext and technique for the composition. Engraving, he says, creates a dialogue within the composition. It’s a mixture of man’s creativity and a mechanical process which he can use to fine-tune the treatment of the subject.
Youssef Elkahfai regrets the fact that there are no great collections of etchings in Morocco, which would encourage interest in and support for the art form.
His work is currently being exhibited in Brussels and he is preparing for an exhibition of his drawings in Dar El Cherifa in Marrakech, which opened April 16, 2014. He is also working on an exhibition in Mexico. He knows Mexico’s art well but has never been there, and he would like to experience the country. An exhibition of his painting and engravings is also planned for the French Institute in Marrakech. He also mentions the Cervantes Institute in Marrakech, which has an interesting exhibition featuring engravings by Goya.
He agrees that the art scene in terms of art galleries and exhibitions in Marrakech has suffered from the effects of the recession and is not as lively as it was in the early 2000s and this does make it difficult for aspiring Marrakechi artists of his generation. He said the most efficient means of communication regarding the arts in Morocco today and reaching a sizeable young audience is Facebook.
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