Malika Si Youcef – Negative Landscape. A studio visit

I met Malika Si Youcef a few weeks ago, a young painter that came all the way from Bordeaux (France) to work in a studio in Istanbul. The studio she rented with her boyfriend, a photographer, was just across the street and I could see them working whenever I looked out of my window.

Both seemed always very busy, so I was confused that all she could show me were MDF panels of monochrome pastel colour when I first went over to the studio. That is when she told me that her technique requires many layers of paint and she was using her time in this city to experiment. After explaining the process I realized that she is not merely a painter, but rather a sculptor.

 (yet without title - work in progress), paint on mdf, 92 x 140 cm, 2013
(yet without title – work in progress), paint on mdf, 92 x 140 cm, 2013

Si Youcef applies several layers of paint on a surface and later sands them down, by hand. The largest piece of the series she is working on in Istanbul is a panel of 92 x 140 cm, divided in 10 equal stripes and surprises with a vivid surface. By taking off the layers bit by bit the geometrical structure that seems to be the origin of the painting/sculpture is transformed into an image evocative of a burned photo negative. The colors, formerly sealed one by one are not put in contrast and the fine difference (all pastel colors) can only be seen when very close.

A second series, which she calls portraits are produced in the same manner. Tristan da Cunch, Diego Gacia Floreana (each: paint on mdf, 46 x 65 cm) are three of them that you can see here. Six layers of blue, sanded down to an abstract form, which is actually a free adaption of the cartography of abandoned islands. They are also reminiscent of low resolution internet images which only show a minimum of color differences.

Her experiment with colors and the interaction of colors is a topic that occurred many painters, such as Joseph Albers. But while someone like Albers and his series Homage to the Square (1949-1976) gauges at the same gesture and the blurring of the defined separation of color Si Youcef adds an abstract portrait of a landscape. And due to the fact of taking off material from the surface, the islands we see are not sticking out of a light blue sea but are carved into the layers of paint – negative landscapes that wish to be explored.

(c) all works are courtesy of the artist. photos by pch

Floreana, paint on mdf, 46 x 65 cm, 2013.
Floreana, paint on mdf, 46 x 65 cm, 2013.
Tristan da Cuncha, paint on mdf, 46 x 65 cm, 2013.
Tristan da Cuncha, paint on mdf, 46 x 65 cm, 2013.
Diego Gacia, paint on mdf, 46 x 65 cm, 2013.
Diego Gacia, paint on mdf, 46 x 65 cm, 2013.

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written by Patrick C. Haas

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M.A. of art history, lives and works in Cologne and Bonn

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