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12.4.2021   |  Art And About Africa

Tears that Taste of the Sea by Rachid Koraïchi

13th April – 12th June 2021
Tears that Taste of the Sea by Rachid Koraïchi at October Gallery, London.

The exhibition comprises one series of seven ceramic vases, three sets of seven black and white paintings, three large steel sculptures and one large etching.

Rachid Koraïchi’s creative explorations have extended across an impressive array of media, which include ceramics, textiles, bronze, corten steel, wood and paintings on silk, paper or canvas. Over a long career, Koraïchi has been influenced by a fascination with signs, symbols, glyphs and scripts drawn from a variety of languages and cultures that he integrates to create his signature mixed-media installations. These large-scale projects employ an array of diverse elements that are commonly executed in widely divergent places, sometimes in collaboration with practitioners of ancient, traditional crafts or, again, employing the most sophisticated of technological advances.

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Rachid Koraïchi, The Garden of Africa – Le Jardin d’Afrique, 2020. Etching, 108.5 x 76 cm. Edition of 70 (#25/70). Courtesy the Artist and October Gallery, London.

In 2019, Koraïchi embarked on a new project of a different order, The Garden of Africa – Le Jardin d’Afrique, to create an original cemetery, providing a dignified final resting place for the hundreds of unburied refugees of all ages, nationalities and religions, whose bodies have been washed ashore along the coastline of Zarzis, in southern Tunisia. This exhibition assembles, for the first time, four of the elements forming part of this unique enterprise. A symbolic overview of the show’s themes is presented in the large etching, The Garden of Africa (2020).

A great circle surrounded by interweaving waves of water with an isolated ‘traveller’ caught at the crossroads in the centre, represents the entry point to another world. The fateful scene is itself enclosed in a rectangular field of Koraïchi’s hand-drawn talismans and auspicious signs, which graphically depict the traveller’s final resting place in a walled garden sanctuary shaded by trees.

The 7 large, blue and white ceramic jars, Lachrymatoires Bleues (2020), are based on Lachrymatory Vases, small glass vials that were originally found in ancient burial chambers and were later believed by the Victorians to be ‘tear gatherers’ used to collect the tears shed at the loss of a loved one. While contemplating the unending wars in Syria, Libya, Yemen and Iraq today, and the endless streams of refugees fleeing their homes in search of a new life in the west, Koraïchi conceived this series as virtual repositories for the countless uncollected tears spilt because of the individual human tragedies associated with these ongoing events. While creating these vases last February, in the centre of Barcelona, as the pandemic scythed through the city’s population, Koraïchi became isolated in ‘lockdown.’ The grim situation unfolding around him added impetus to his solitary labours.

Similarly, the three sets of 7 elaborately configured black and white painted ‘squares’, Handkerchiefs of Hope (2020), refer to the emotional outpourings consigned to these intimate accessories. Metaphorically speaking, these works reveal the existential records imprinted as secret signs and cyphers that encrypt the hidden histories of these untold stories. Finally, the 3 statuesque corten steel sculptures whose bodies are forged from Koraïchi’s fluid gestural script act as talismanic guardians of the place. Their vigilant presence gives assurance that the nightmare is temporarily suspended and, though painful memories remain, the monuments, trees and scented herbs of this walled garden offer safe refuge and repose to all.

About the artist:
Rachid Koraïchi (Born in 1947, Aïn Beïda, Algeria) studied at the École supérieure des Beaux-Arts d’Alger, Algiers, Algeria, before continuing his studies at the École nationale supérieure des Arts Décoratifs, Paris, the Institut d’urbanisme, Paris, France and the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts.

October Gallery first showed Koraïchi’s work in 2003 and has presented three solo exhibitions amongst numerous external projects. In 2011, the Gallery collaborated with ADMAF to present Koraïchi’s masterpiece Path of Roses, dedicated to Rumi, in Abu Dhabi. In 2015, he completed work on his largest, installation to date, La Prière des Absents, honouring both his parents.

In 2011, seven of the 99 banners of The Invisible Masters (2010) won the prestigious Jameel Prize at the V&A, London, UK. This major installation was first shown in its entirety at Haus der Kunst, Munich, 2010.

In 2019, Casa Árabe, Madrid hosted the exhibition This Long Journey into your Gaze (with Factum Arte). The same year, Rachid bought agricultural land in Zarzis, Tunisia, with his daughters, Aïcha and Fatma, to create a memorial resting place Jardin d’Afrique, a cemetery for migrants of all nationalities and religions who died crossing the Mediterranean Sea.

Koraïchi’s work is in major public collections, including the British Museum, London, UK; the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, New York, USA; the Newark Museum, Newark, USA; the National Gallery, Amman, Jordan; the Miami Art Museum, Miami, USA; the Guggenheim, Abu Dhabi, UAE and the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, New Delhi, India.

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Rachid Koraïchi, Mouchoirs d’espoir, Handkerchiefs of Hope (set of 7), 2019/20. Acrylic on canvas, 38 x 231 cm. Courtesy the Artist and October Gallery, London. Courtesy the Artist and October Gallery, London.



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