When i revisited
Bahgory's atelier, the rain was coming down in hard coarse
streaks across the winter shattered trees. This was not the
silvery frolicking of a Watteau, but more the blackness of
Munch's cry of emptiness and kollwitz's stark architectures of
Opening the wide door to Bahgory's workroom I was thrust, drawn
in, to a warmth of colour... harmonies of hope and
understanding... ochres, reds, deep gold and browns, creamy
yellows... and the more sombre colours of a darker, yet
Bahgory's deep brown eyes twinkle as he explains the nostalgia
of colours... on his childhood's roof the jars of molasses,
black gold, and cruches of cheese made ochre in the sun... the
poor man's fare made richer in the light... and, beyond this,
the colours and warmth of the whole of the Mediterranean basin,
that cradle of civilization baked by fiery life... the colours
that he who can turn away from the holiday postcard blue of the
sea will contemplate... the desert colours of the meditations of
Abraham, Jesus and Mohammed.. those colours, their subtle shades
and ever changing nuances, thrown into relief by the turning of
the sun's eye.
it is the eye which fascinates first in the myriad visages that
Bahgory shows the eye beloved of the pharaohs.. the eye
kohl-bright in the discreetly veiled face in the street...
subtle echoes of the etruscan tomb... not blind Greek statue,
but Modigliani mellow and shining out to us in appeal, an appeal
to an understanding of all humanity.
And from the eye, the well of the soul, Bahgoury builds up
collages of faces to create living pictures, which go beyond
their form, the simple geometrical frame... faces which gently
bustle for our attention like perfumed passersby in the streets
of our dreams, along a steep souk, or a winding lane up from sea
scented harbour... here the beautiful eye, the jewel, of the
unattainable gazelle woman, there the eye of blind wisdom, and,
there and there, the staring eye of a stranger... the glance of
the unknown friend... of the unknown monster?
The delicate nuanced art of Bahgory lies in making us, the
beholder, sensitive to that brief moment of awareness in the
tohu bohu of life.
Like beggers for the truth, we are drawn to the regard... will
this one, that one, give us the warm coin of harmony, of
comprehension, of life?
But with Bahgory we do not need to beg for he freely gives in
warmth and local.
The harmony of earth colours, the vibrant browns, the golds, the
reds, the deep olives, in Bahgory's work are no cold mineral
They are alive... tangible.
His use of collage , of tactile canvas, of paper, or common,
rich papyrus or rare fabric from jaban, draws us in to his
Just as, when we contemplate one of his sculptures, the hand
instinctively moves to touch the rough and smooth blending
juxtaposed harmonies of its form, so it is with his paintings.
Their textures call out to our active participation.
The finger moves up to caress, as if to smooth the brow of a
sweet beloved, or to the rugged cheek of a grandfather made
gentle by age.
We are moved.
has taken the theme, or the medium, of the face beyond what
Picasso splashed in his poster paint post-Guernica posturings.
Bahgory has no need like Francis Bacon to muffle the spirit with
the misshapen swirls of monotonous despair.
Where there is posturing it is ours; Bahgory presents the
complexity of form for our simple understanding.
If there is despair, Bahgory transforms it and offers it
transfigured for comprehension and reflected warmth... and, of
course, the mud of monotony has no place on Bahgory's warm
palette of life.
Bahgory is celebrated in the press of the Arab World and in
Paris as a caricaturist of the highest order.
Those who have been touched by his work in the often ungrateful
medium of newsprint, may be disappointed if they come to his
paintings and sculpture simply for laughter.
At a symposium of cartoonists and critics in Japan recently,
there was long discussion of what was the essential quality in a
cartoon artist of the top flight.
In the end it all came down to sensitivity.
What the casual newspaper reader will find in all of Bahgory's
work is just that quality of sensitivity, a sensitivity in the
long research for the harmony of life.
When i came to leave Bahgory's atelier, it was still cold and
raining outside. I turned back and lingered musingly a little
longer in communion with his works, a richness in life.
...And the wind outside became the soft keening of a flute, and
the pattering rain the gentle heartbeats of a taut drum, and it
was an Arab, an African, flute and drum... and also, here in the
cold north, a Celtic drum... all made more real under the brown
gaze of Bahgory's harmonious regard , his life.