View of “Younès Rahmoun,” 2018. Photo: Livia Saavedra.

View of “Younès Rahmoun,” 2018. Photo: Livia Saavedra.

Younès Rahmoun

Imane Farès

View of “Younès Rahmoun,” 2018. Photo: Livia Saavedra.

Hijra,” the title of Younès Rahmoun’s most recent exhibition, refers to the departure, in the year 622, of the Prophet Muhammad and his followers from Mecca to Yathrib, the pre-Islamic name of Medina. Hijra—the word means “migration” in Arabic—is an act of faith, an act that looks toward the future. “I think that traveling is a true gift,” the artist said in an interview with curator Jérôme Sans, “whether it is an inner journey or a journey toward the other.” Rahmoun draws strongly on the traditions of Islam in his work, particularly Sufi philosophy. However, it is not only the presence of religious symbolism that animates the new and recent drawings, sculpture, and installation that Rahmoun presented here, but also the artist’s faith. In an interview with curator Abdellah Karroum, the artist explained, “I think my ideas are increasingly informed by religion,” continuing, “I do not distinguish ‘Younès the practicing Muslim’ and ‘Younès the artist’—I am both.”

Visible through the gallery’s generous glass facade, Jabal-Hajar-Turâb (Mountain-Stone-Earth),2012–18—an installation comprising a number of smaller works—was framed by three gray walls marked, in white chalk, with a peaked and valleyed horizon line serving as the backdrop for three series of ink drawings, a delicate sculpture in wood and clay, and seven color photographs displayed flat on the floor. Plantlike forms filled one series of drawings, and each of the photographs portrayed a low-lying desert plant. In the other drawings, arcing lines connected dots of ink, while in the sculptures, wooden filaments linked clay spheres. These atom-like elements appeared again in color in Darra-Saborra (Atom-Slate),2015, a set of eight chalk drawings on blackboards, displayed together in a narrow corridor.  These points of color or ink, and the photographic reference to the desert scrub, repeat the marks, patterns, and landscapes that the artist has used in his series “Ghorfa” (Bedroom), 2006–16. Each of the drawings and sculptural works in this series is a reflection on the little room that Rahmoun’s mother offered to him as a studio space in 1998. This space, located under a flight of stairs in his parents’ house in Tétouan, Morocco, was the artist’s “refuge, a place whose history was entirely connected to [his] own history.” There, the artist recalls, he spent seven years thinking, working, and meditating. For Rahmoun, transforming his private space into an artistic work was “a way of encouraging visitors to enter my own history,” to experience the work as a sort of voyage toward the other.

In the small gallery downstairs, the scale of Rahmoun’s installation Markib-Manzil-Mawja (Boat-House-Wave), 2015, echoed the intimate dimensions of “Ghorfa.” The work is composed of an audio track, a video of ocean waves projected onto a low platform, and sculptural elements oriented toward Mecca, among them a low wooden platform and a small boat filled with broken glass. At the center, a small wooden sculpture of a house rests on a transparent plastic container holding shards of glass. Rahmoun often uses the image of a boat to represent a spiritual journey—a type of hijra, one might say. Islam is the second-most-practiced religion of France, and face-to-face with Rahmoun’s work, the non-Muslim viewer experiences an intimate and meditative voyage toward the other. Formal beauty plays a role in this passage, but the tangible evidence of the artist’s belief certainly does too.

Lillian Davies