Mohamed Hamri (1932-2000), self-proclaimed “Painter of Morocco”, was undoubtedly one of the most important Moroccan artists of the last century, and one of the few to have achieved international recognition during his lifetime.
Born in Joujouka in 1932,
It was during this period, at the end of the 1940s, that Hamri met the American writer and composer Paul Bowles (1910-1999) with whom he lived for a brief period, and who introduced him to the English painter, writer and narrator Brion Gysin (1916-1986).
Gysin immediately befriended the handsome young Moroccan, who became his business partner and protégé.
Although it has been reported that both Bowles and Gysin encouraged Hamri to become an artist.
Encouraged by Bowles, Yacoubi held his first exhibition of paintings in November 1952 at the “Librairie des colonnes” in Tangier.
Essentially self-taught. Hamri is often considered a naïve artist, a designation that is virtually meaningless in relation to his technique. True, he often took as his theme some prosaic scene from Moroccan village life, but he was not strictly speaking a naïve painter, in the style of, for example, the so-called father of Moroccan painting, Mohamed Ben Ali R’bati.
Hamri’s paintings are fauvist, often amusing, sometimes evoking the influence of European movements such as impressionism, expressionism or cubism, but always deeply Moroccan! He did not copy any style. He evolved on his own. But he evolved with close reference to the masters. Hamri considered himself the father of his paintings, calling them my children. He thought that his relationship to a painting was generative, not creative. It was as if the painting had had a pre-existence, and Hamri acted as a medium through which it came into being. A firm believer in the benefits of baraka, Hamri’s paintings are, in a sense, spells in paint. As long as they exist, Hamri is alive, and approaches us smiling, chatting about love and lovers, full of life, charming us with his tales of Joujouka, not a dead artist, but a living force.