Zoom Into Mohammed Khadda's Abstracts

Get up close to the pioneering Algerian painter's works, combining Arabic and abstract languages

By Google Arts & Culture

Saisons II (1954) by Mohammed KhaddaContemporary Art Platform (CAP) Kuwait

Mohammed Khadda is perhaps Algeria’s most important modern painter. He’s credited with being a founding influence on modern Algerian painting and art. 

Khadda’s artistic career started late. In 1953, he travelled to Paris, France, and studied under Pablo Picasso, who was working in the city at the time. From Picasso, Khadda learnt the principles of Cubist composition. 

In this painting, Saisons II (1954), the geometric lines and muted modernist palettes of the Paris cubists are apparent.

On a detailed level, the formal structures and color distribution of Piet Mondrian’s work influences Khadda’s abstract pictorial language.

Western abstract art was an eye-opener for Khadda. Here, however, he doesn’t adopt the ‘multiple viewpoints’ motif, looking at an object or person from many different perspectives at once, which was so important to the Cubists. Khadda instead preferred to keep his abstract surfaces flat.

Abstraction vert by Mohammed KhaddaBarjeel Art Foundation

This helped him introduce onto the picture’s surface shapes drawn from Arabic calligraphy. Before launching his career as a painter, Khadda worked for a printing house in Mostaganem, making sketches for books. His early experiences of creativity synthesized language and pictures.

In paintings like this, Abstraction Vert (1969), an earthy abstract landscape…

...is combined with clearly delineated ‘signs’ owing their form to Arabic calligraphy. Khadda’s synthesis of these two elements, one very new to his time and the other deeply traditional, was influential in its own time, and its influence continues to this day, visible in the work of, for example, French-Tunisian street artist, El-Seed.

Abstraction vert sur fond orange by Mohammed KhaddaBarjeel Art Foundation

After a decade in Europe, Khadda returned to Algeria and worked hard to set up a contemporary scene for young Algerian artists. He founded Sign Painters and School of the Sign in 1967, to continue propounding his vision of calligraphic ‘sign’ work over abstract backgrounds. His painting and his community work changed the history of Algerian art for good. 

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