Looking into the Fire: Fayçal Baghriche at 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair

Algerian-born artist Fayçal Baghriche inspires profound meaning through simple visual language in his show at the 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair. The title of one of the works, Wenn du ins feuer guckst (2012)—if you look into the fire—might serve as a guiding metaphor for the complex works on display. The title comes from a conversation the artist had with a Viennese shop owner, who compared the experience of art to looking into a fire and seeing shapes emerge. Such is the experience of viewing Baghriche’s art. The work is extremely subtle, raising many questions but providing no answers. His actions reveal just enough to stimulate those willing to use their own experience and faculties to push the work further. 

Wenn du ins feuer guckst shows a young girl with arms outstretched, a light bulb hovering between her hands. The image is wrapped around a lightbox and glows bright white; only scant features on the girl’s face are visible so she appears like a poltergeist or inverse version of herself. There’s a mixed quality to this work, a sense of innocence and doom. She’s both angelic and demonic; her action is hopeful but her visage is spooky, bleached-out and erased. 

Akoah (2012) is awkward to digest visually, a three-foot-tall wax-and-plaster cast of a dummy used for water rescue, with wax pipes sticking out all over it. The meaning of Akoah lies in the artistic process it embodies: lost wax casting, an ancient method of creating extremely accurate and detailed bronze casts of objects using wax; although here, he seems to be pointing to our drive to replicate and concretize things in art, but also on a more general societal level. 

Baghriche’s photo series “Family Friendly,” which began in 2012, consists of censored images collected from art magazines in Dubai. In these pictures, locally forbidden body parts appearing in artworks are slashed in black ink, effectively covering the parts but leaving the rest of the image for aesthetic consideration. The silencing of these parts obscures them from view but also grants them great power.

—Makiko Wholey

Visit Taymour Grahne Gallery at 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair 2014, London, Oct. 16th – 19th.

Explore the 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair on Artsy.

Portrait of the artist ©Matthieu Parent, courtesy of Taymour Grahne.