It is impossible to ignore the quality of its staging, and his portaits, that they are inspired by paintings of classical masters, he admires, or that they take their source in his imagination, built by successive strata, and rendered in a visual quintessence that strikes by the correctness of the adequacy of the background and form and by its perfect mastery of light.
The construction of the book takes up the way Wahib Chehata constructed his work, by series: Renaissance, Resilience, Mythologies, Black & Light, Corpus and Entropy.
Head print :
The head print is composed of the first 30 copies. Each book is accompanied by a Fine Art print to be chosen from a selection of the artist.
Each original print is signed, numbered and limited to 6 copies Head print is available exclusively here on Hemeria.com
Some of UT PICTURA’s works will be exhibited in Paris Photo from 7 to 9 November 2019 on the Hemeria booth.
Here are some excerpts from the text of art critic Clément Thibault, entitled Le Temps de l’image et des mythes, which accompanies the photographer’s visible images – his “paintings”, as well as a selection of selected images from the book.
The images of Wahib Chehata speak to everyone, but they are paradoxical. They talk to everyone and shut up at the same time. Intelligible, they refuse to deliver a precise meaning, which can be circumscribed to a subject. It is in the midst of a common visual heritage that the work of Wahib Chehata crystallizes, memories of images that we share, be they artistic, religious or «profane». It draws on the images that have built our psyche. The poses, attitudes, compositions and symbols that he never ceases to summon are found in various mythologies, in Catholic and Muslim iconography, in western pictorial history and Arabic calligraphy, in the most recent news and some detours by other cultures, pop and urban, and its style appears itself as a crucible mixing various practices—fashion portrait, advertising photography, more recently photojournalism.
A sorrowful mind could see in this a vast post-modern assembly, a bit of a catch-all, without perceiving the cohesion and precision of the work accomplished.
So let us ask this question: why mix the symbols, why reconnect with the compositions of the past? Why quoting? To place yourself in a relationship with art history? Why not, but not only, because it would deny the density of time at work in the images of Wahib Chehata, it would deny their anachronistic aspect.
The compositions and symbols he uses, his willingness to produce a photograph that is a body with painting, it also allows us to revive the expression, like Jeff Wall, to make it more complex and to inscribe it in a common visual heritage. The Renaissance, particularly inspired by Wahib Chehata, is the unfaithful heir of medieval symbolism, rich in allegories and emblems. Wahib Chehata finds this point of balance between the medieval allegory, according to which the image is a figurative writing, and the reborn «realism», which borrows from the ancient model the mimetic and dramatic dimension of the representation. But let us not forget also that quoting the past is a gesture of the present. To throw these secular compositions into our present is to give them a new topicality, to see what remains and remains in them.
Baudelaire saw in the artist the urgent need to “remove from fashion” what it can contain of poetics in history, to draw «the eternal from the transient». Wahib Chehata proceeds backwards: he throws our gift into the eternal. It exhume the forms of the past, that it grime of modernity.
More and more, citizens appear as devotees whose religion changes with each new hashtag. But when we consider them, it is always the same stories that we have been living for centuries, collectively and individually, the conflicts of power, the predation of one over the other, the Ancients against the Moderns, the experience of being inane, of desire, of mourning…
To these questions, to these fears, to this noise, Wahib Chehata responds with the wisdom of the images, from the height of their centuries. For him, plastic work is realized neither in the perspective of virtuosity or inclusion in human values, that is to say the market, nor in commentary, but in sensation. By dramatizing reality, by modelling these archetypes, the clay of the ages, Wahib Chehata seeks pure, collective emotion. A complete work, where expression is served by a strong sensitivity to art history. To photograph as one paints, to read images as one reads a text; to face the density of time.
It is almost a methodology, Wahib Chehata likes to twist the myths, to turn them back. More specifically, he likes to render them inoperative in their classical dialectic in order to renew them with an aura of more current meaning, even if it still adorns itself of the old.
With this mask, Wahib Chehata serves us a Narcissus without a face, whose sinful identity is rendered invisible. Represent no one, just like we represent everyone. Moreover, this Narcisse turned away from his reflection on the surface of the water to revel in the photographic lens. The receptacle of self-love is changing, it is no longer the self-satisfaction experienced in the darkness of an undergrowth, it is the one we share. It’s Narcisse at selfie time.
In these images, the «glossy paper» aesthetics of advertising photography, especially consumer goods, serves a vast vanity, where the death of illusions is close to the death of the flesh, God’s death without guilt, the unholy act, the image can-be of a triumphant immanence, where all verticality has been abandoned. What’s left of the body besides the body?
In a rationalistic world, where anything is transformed into numbers and potential gains, where nothing is more the receptacle of the sacred, these images are the reflections of a society where murder has been relegated to slaughterhouses, far from the sight of the men who eat the remains. Transcendence has abandoned us, leaving us with the agri-food industry.
The golden calf, the head torn off. As this image weaves subtle links with the most immediate topicality, while capitalism, as a tool of production and exchange, is called into question, while the predation of some on nature, the resources it lavishes, and men, by the lure of gain, or by seduction of the sirens of power, has brought us to the edge of a precipice, while our old certainties waver in the urgency of thinking a new, more harmonious system. Our idols are dead, we must find others.
To be shot, in any way, shape or form, is to fight death. By making (or making) his image, we leave on earth a trace, something that will survive us. fight death. A legacy to posterity. Moreover, the term keeps this intestinal struggle against the irremediable in its etymology since, at the origin of ancient Rome, the imagine were masks made of wax, molded on the face of the dead and carried in processions. To this relentless reality, this hooded man, looking like a Savonarola or a black bloc, responds with the determination and the slight challenge present in his eyes—frequent in Wahib Chehata’s work
Clément Thibaultis an independent curator and art critic. After studying art history and cultural management, he was assistant curator of Laurence Dreyfus, then editor-in-chief of Art Media Agency (AMA) for two years. Today, he frequently collaborates with various magazines (Art Absolument, AMA, Modern Art, etc.) and has participated in several books, monographs and exhibition catalogues. From classical African art to digital art, his inclusive approach to criticism and curatorial work revolves around reflections on image and spirituality. Since 2015, he teaches art history in specialized institutions (ICART, EAC, IESA) and the history and philosophy of video games in a school of game design (ICAN). Clément Thibault is a member of the Board of Directors of the Cube (Centre de création numérique, Issy-les-Moulineaux), and of the jury of the Salon d’art contemporain de Montrouge (2020).
Clément Thibault is a member of the AICA (international association of art critics), C-E-A (French association of exhibition curators) and Jeunes Critiques d’art (JCA). He is also a member of the Board of Directors of the Cube, a digital creation centre (Issy-les-Moulineaux).
He presented the work of Wahib Chehata at the AICA Prize for Art Criticism on 23 April 2019.