Houda Bakkali. Life is beautiful

With the new graphic series Life is beautiful the international visual artist Houda Bakkali launches a universal message of optimism and hope, more necessary than ever in these strange dark times that humankind is experiencing due to the global pandemic and the unpredictability of its evolution. While the whole world is sick, disoriented and frightened by the future, the Spanish artist concentrates on the digital canvas, all the most vibrant and incredible colors that nature and pixels are able to offer to create a real explosion of joy of against which it is impossible to remain neutral. The implicit exhortation in these images is to savor every moment that life offers us, to saturate the heart and mind with positive thoughts, to be grateful to life despite all the difficulties it faces. The protagonist of Life is beautiful is a female figure inspired by her missing mother, a women’s rights activist to whom the artist dedicated the Beautiful African Woman series in 2018 and by the artist’s childhood and by her memory of Monaco. Here too the woman becomes an icon of a free and strong femininity and, camouflaged among the flowers, almost takes on the appearance of an ancient natural divinity reinterpreted in a contemporary key. Once again Houda Bakkali enchants for the naturalness with which she manages to synthesize complex concepts and moods in powerful and immediate images without trivializing the message she wants to convey. The mixed technique used by the artist, which combines photography, illustration, augmented reality and digital collage, is extremely versatile in materializing timeless poetic visions in the form of pure light that make you forget the coldness of the technological medium. Recently the artist, always careful to grasp the changes of our contemporaneity, was awarded important prizes in Paris and New York for the Freedom series (2020), emblem of a courageous and transgressive female independence, and was among the protagonists of the United Nations campaign # UNCOVIDBRIEF19 with the Creativity against COVID-19 series, where the gray that symbolizes the pandemic reveals the hope that color and beauty will return to light up our lives.

One of the most important (and most difficult to accept) lessons we have drawn from the global pandemic is that our so-called “normality” is actually a delicate condition of balance over a very thin thread, which could break at any moment. How has this new awareness influenced your art?
Indeed, today’s world is very different from how we knew it until the pandemic arrived. I believe that today more than ever art in its various manifestations is important, as it is projecting a vision that fills our lives with hope and gives us the energy to move forward. My conception of art has not changed. I continue to create the worlds that motivate me, presenting to the public my real and fictional stories in which happiness triumphs. Human beings must be able to turn happiness into a trend that does not go out of style. While in quarantine, I created the “Creativity against Covid” series for the United Nations #UNCOVIDBRIEF19 campaign and also the “Life is beautiful” series. The truth is that art was my best refuge during the long days of confinement.

The images of the Life is beautiful series show a luxuriant and colorful nature that saturates the surrounding pictorial space and seems to take precedence over the human figure, no longer the only protagonist. Compared to your previous artistic production, this new symbiosis between the figure and a background which is full of visions seems to me a new evolution of your path. Would you like to tell us something about it?
The work “Life is beautiful” was born during the pandemic. When the Covid-19 crisis began, I had already prepared the event in Monaco and had selected the work to be presented. But during the quarantine, I realized that a dark and extreme reality such as the one we were experiencing and which still threatens us today, needs an enthusiastic and energetic response. An extreme art work for extreme environmental conditions. I looked for a mix that had an impact, but without losing the essence of the world I like. “Life is beautiful” is a tribute to the female figure and to nature, and it is also a tribute to the colors of the Riviera, to an imaginary carnival, full of sounds and scents, in which the light and the explosion of the Mediterranean colors remind us that there is no greater force than happiness. The images feed on my memories of Monaco and the visions that inspire me here today at every step. It is true that this series differs from previous works, I sought a greater impact of color, without fear of excess and hybridization between various artistic techniques. This work comes from the fusion of photography, illustration and digital collage, to which acrylic painting on canvas is added. In addition, the work is accompanied by a performance in which it comes to life: it is a way for the public to interact with the work and take its message beyond the canvas.

What symbolic value do flowers and their colors have for you? In this series of works they seem to be the primary constitutive material of the world and not a simple detail of beauty as we are superficially used to considering them….
In 2008 I created my first work. It was born in a completely spontaneous way, inspired by my origins. One after the other, I put together a collage of flowers with different color combinations that created a work that still today, twelve years later, continues to arouse the interest of the public. When I finished I decided to call it “Africa, the flowers of happiness”. From that moment the flowers have become my best allies to bring a component of happiness to my works. They are immensely powerful, subtle and fragile at the same time. On this occasion, I wanted them to be protagonists because they represent the transience of life, the explosion of ephemeral beauty that I want to immortalize in my creations. A call to “carpe diem” more necessary than ever. All the flowers in my work are real. I look for them in the streets, in the most anonymous spaces and I photograph them. Then I modify them digitally and reinvent them in different shapes, sizes and colors, trying to give each one a soul. It is a complex and magical process. In “Life is beautiful” I also wanted to look for tones reminiscent of the Mediterranean, Monaco, to create flowers that evoke a journey through joyful sensations, full of freshness and energy. The flowers represent a vibrant nature capable of highlighting the female figure, which is suggestive, mysterious and even fun.

Your works are always a tribute to life, beauty, optimism and hope, values ​​that are not common in the contemporary artistic imagination, which you try to convey to your audience. Was it difficult to assert yourself by carrying on these suggestions a little against the tide?
On a global level, not only in the artistic field, we are in a context in which the drama seems to triumph over happiness. Tragedy is news, happy stories don’t matter. In my opinion there is an excess of artificiality in the drama and in the destructive, morbid and irrelevant protest. Pain contributes little to life if it is not channeled into positive actions and attitudes. I believe that artists have a moral duty towards society: we should think about making the public happy. The fact that the works serve to reflect on the vicissitudes of the world and denounce its injustices is perfectly compatible with an approach that brings color and hope. And it also supports the creation of scenarios that are understandable and recognizable by the public. I sincerely believe that happiness has much more power than pain and drama. Happiness leads to success, to the realization of dreams. That is why it was not difficult for me to establish myself in the artistic field following these insights that unite my works. On the contrary, the public appreciates my approach.

Where will the Life is beautiful series be exhibited for the first time?
In Monaco, first in a private presentation at the legendary Le Pinocchio restaurant and then during the 1st International Exhibition of Contemporary Art. This work was born for Monaco, it is inspired by this place in its colors and in the love for life, beauty and happiness. It is a tribute to happy memories and an exhortation to look to the future with hope.



Portrait of Houda Bakkali

Houda Bakkali Life is beautifulHouda Bakkali, Life is beautiful, mixed media, 2020

Houda Bakkali, Life is beautiful, mixed media, 2020

Houda Bakkali, Life is beautiful, mixed media, 2020

Houda Bakkali at art3f, 1st International Exhibition of Contemporary Art in Monaco

Houda Bakkali, Life is beautiful, augmented reality, 2020


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