“Nothing at all I’m afraid, I work with one thing at a time,” replies flatly Swedish painter Moley Talhaoui when asked about his future projects. An unusual statement that shows that the creative is fully connected with the present moment, from where he connects with his origins. Being a second-generation immigrant, the artist, who has previously exhibited his paintings in spaces such as Delphian Gallery or Saatchi Gallery London, now presents his new exhibition, Retrointrospective. A collection in chronological order, that allows us into the depth of his inner world and the evolution of his work. You can visit it until May 22 in Stockholm.
Moley, I have read that you are a self-taught artist. Is this true?
The short answer is yes! But the definition of self-taught has been slightly confusing to me. On the one hand, I totally understand that it applies to or tells us that a person who is auto dictated is not bound to any art-related education, whilst it also could suggest that the craft behind the work somehow just appears from nothing. Like the Western pop-cultural magical thinking around the concept of ‘natural talents.’ The latter makes me wonder about art and creativity and their origin. If a school could be made from hip-hop or rap music today, its street/self-made position would probably drastically decline in value, almost like cultural gentrification.
In my perspective, new ideas and social aspects compete for dominance over ‘right’ beliefs. I’m highly sensitive, and an observer of my inner and outer world, so if a group were to be part of my direction, the content filtered through me could be affected and I would be just another person singing someone else’s gospel.
How did your first approach to painting come about?
I was a manic drawer and painter as a child, it was the only thing that made sense to me. No mission or ambition, just for the fun of it.
You’ve said that you paint when you feel it. I guess every artist has his own moments of inspiration in which he needs to capture his ideas and internal conflicts, whether on paper, a canvas or a song. Do you think a creative can follow a strict routine?
It took many years for me to realize that creativity doesn’t shoot aimless arrows in hope of hitting a stationary target. It’s quite like meditation. I need to maintain continuity and a pattern to keep my antenna receptive. It can take several days with no connection, but the constant pursuit will take me to the right place eventually.
Moley Talhaoui 1.jpg
Genesistears (200x150cm, oil on canvas, 2020) © Moley Talhaoui
You are based in Stockholm but your parents are originally from Morocco. How important are your roots in your art and how is your relationship with your origins?
Origin is the complete composition of I in the now. My parents were at the frontier of their origin, before life forced them to drastically change, based on hope and survival. A place of no familiarity made them long back to the relatable. As a second-generation immigrant, I gained the opportunity to be at the frontier of my life, even though the society is trying to label minorities as carriers of the ‘before,’ something new but not local.
Creating from a perspective of origin, my origin is not so much about reminiscing over previous lives, but rather living in the now, and fulfilling my parents’ lost realisation of themselves. To connect with my origin is to stay here and consume whatever the world feeds me right now, free to create beauty without context. Free to make art that is fully escapist and nonsensical, and to realise myself however I please, that would be to honour my roots and beam some healing to those who gave their lives for others to be themselves.
And how would you define the current international art scene? Do you think there are many young talents who are contributing new visions and ways of understanding the world?
I think the progression of art is moving beautifully and accordingly. The width and fragmentation of art platforms make the contemporary scene less centralized and democratic. I detect some discomfort from bigger art contexts where some adjust and others resist, keeping some position in the future and development of the contemporary art scene. Whenever I see minorities create from a place of ‘whatever’ is where I feel the most pleased. Africans and Middle Eastern art taking part on the world stage without being labelled as foreign or exotic, that’s progress.
Is there anyone you want to highlight?
Morteza Khakshoor, Jammie Holmes, Du Jingze and Andrew Salgado
Many people affirm that young generations are extremely talented, at the same time that they are victims of precariousness and a society that on many occasions does not seem to take art too seriously. Or at least relegates it as if it were a second-rate activity. Are we aware of the important role that art has in our lives?
I think that's a positive reaction to art. If the majority understands the pinpoint towards more potential, it may well mean that society is stagnated or not moving in a progressive direction. The friction and devaluation of art indicate to me that the programmers of human software are recording older versions. The fear or denial of change defines mankind. The symbiosis between risk and safety, art and artists are modern time explorers.
Why is it so often underestimated?
Moley 2.jpg
Let's talk about your new exhibition, Retrointrospective. How would you define this new project in just one sentence?
Past present future is I now.
You invite us to accompany you throughout time and your career as an artist, giving a glimpse into where your expression will take us going forward. What have been the main changes you have experienced since you first embarked on painting?
Taking the time and giving time.
Do you remember what the first painting you did was?
The first drawing I can remember that I made was of a boy hanging on a rope ladder from a deep steep. A hand stretches out to grab hold of a climber, but the climber holds on to the ladder. I’m not sure why I drew that when I was 4 years old, but my interpretation of what I can take from it now is a boy that seemed to fear the obvious, the certain death from the deep steep, but also not trusting the helping hand reaching out.
“One cornerstone throughout his paintings has been the exploration of personal and spiritual existence,” we read in the manifesto that comes along with Retrointrospective. Tell us about spiritual self-discovery, what exactly do you mean?
To discover the self is the purity of my personal pursuit. I think we all have these moments where we feel it’s all a set stage, where everything that’s believed is nothing more than other thoughts. This ‘self’ labels everything, starting with your name, gender, nationality, culture and so on. These stories tell us how to relate to the outer world. When I paint, I sometimes lose the grip of the self, ‘Moley.’ I often find myself at a place that has no distance towards or from, no speaker or receiver, a place where motion is just movement without commentary and judgement. In those moments, I somehow download particles of something that my finite self would describe as divine. A few pieces of a jigsaw of everything and nothing. But the more I try to explain it, the lesser graspable it becomes.
Where and until when can we see your exhibition?
In Stockholm between May 19th and May 22nd, one time and one time only.
And finally, is there anything you can tell us about your next projects?
Nothing at all I’m afraid, I work with one thing at a time.
Moley Talhaoui 8.jpg
Sensithief (200x150cm, oil on canvas, 2020) © Moley Talhaoui
Moley Talhaoui 7.jpg
Schizophilia (125x125cm, oil, acrylic on canvas, 2018/19) © Moley Talhaoui
Moley Talhaoui 3.jpg
Mindcraft (140x140cm, oil on canvas, 2021) © Moley Talhaoui
Moley Talhaoui 2.jpg
Methallica / Humanual (135x135cm, oil on canvas, 2021) © Moley Talhaoui
Moley Talhaoui 6.jpg
No native narrative (200x150cm, oil on canvas, 2019) © Moley Talhaoui
Moley 3.jpg