The other day I took the regional train and I left central Paris for the suburbs! What an adventure! Somewhere in the North West there is a little town called Cergy and the municipality decided that it was the perfect place to settle Universities, for the best interest, of course, of the lucky students that now have to endure a daily public transportation time of approximately one hour (one way) to reach their study place. Another way to say that it really requires a lot of motivation to go to lessons (in addition to that…)! My friend, Najma, is one of them. She studies at the National School of Art to become, well, an Artist. I love her for that. When she finished high school, nobody put pressure on her to study medicine, law or business. As a matter of fact, next to the Art building, you can find the famous Business School, ESSEC, ranked no. 2 in France, right after HEC. That’s another way to approach life. So, Najma decided to follow her instinct, her dreams and passion and, four years later, she is now a Master student that dedicates her time to “making Art”. And she is incredibly talented. You see, Art can be interpreted many ways, and that’s where it gets tricky, abstract and for people like me, confusing. Especially contemporary Art. I get lost for sure. The only thing I can relate to is a painting of Cezanne or Matisse. So when I visited the Art School, I was surprised that nobody was holding a pencil! Instead, I found all sort of workman tools such as drills, saws, press, hammer… and they were sanding, cutting and gluing pieces together. Of course my favorite place where the photo lab, where you can do all of the developing process yourself in the dark room. I would love to learn how to do that!
So what does the art student actually do? He goes to lessons, of course, there is always a theoretical part in every field. But most of his valuable time, he spends it in the Atelier where he actually does something with its hands. The fun part. Since January, Najma shares the Atelier with three guys and it is quite a team! Najma: “They manage to bring seriousness and, at the same time, casualness in the life of the workshop, which makes working alongside with them very enjoyable. They do not hesitate to lend a hand, even when you’re not soliciting them. They each have a great “expertise”, primarily sculpture, which I find very interesting.”
While I was there, I really wanted to capture the special bond between them and the happy atmosphere of the workshop. They spend so much time together in a rather “small” place; they look like a little family. I really like the idea of community in studying which reminds me a little bit of group work back then when I was a student myself (which I still am, but in a writing phase only). But it feels different; they look much more involved in something they actually love. Something I didn’t always feel during my studies. Now to talk a little bit about Najma’s personal work, “modularity” is at the heart of her work: “My approach is strongly influenced by space. I have great interest in architecture and the modular is my central them. In personal care where storage space is limited, or nonexistent, I try to create forms that can still be spread as much as be restricted. A reminder to childhood may be visible in my work, while keeping a certain distance; it does not become playful for all.”
I met Najma through interposed person, and we became really good friends throughout the year I just spent in Paris. She was born in Morocco but has been living in Paris since teenagehood. I find her radiant especially when she smiles. She is one the most generous and devoted person I know, you can always count on her and she is always in for a party, and enjoying life in general. It’s actually her birthday this month. It’s gonna be a happy one!
Some of Najma’s work:
“Sans titre #1 (2013) : modules en plâtre (moulage de boîtes d’oeuf puis assemblé) sont un projet qui rappel le plus l’enfance, puisqu’ils ont l’aspect d’un jeu de construction (lego). La boîte d’œuf était la forme la plus convenable pour permettre un bon emboîtement des modules. La partie supérieur de l’installation reste ouverte (aucun élément vient refermer l’assemblage) d’autres modules peuvent alors être ajoutés. Un protocole peut alors être présenté ainsi, à chaque fois que cette installation est présentée, un module doit être ajouté, un work in progress.”
“Le sol modulable (2013) sont des éléments qui viennent supplanter l’espace dans lequel ils sont installés. C’est un travail que je souhaite développer à l’avenir. D’autre espace que le sol soit modifié, tel que les murs, les plafonds, mais aussi ajouter d’autres volumes intérieurs. Avec ce projet je modifie le sol, en lui apportant des hauteurs différentes avec des pleins et des vides, j’augmente ainsi l’attention du marcheur vers le bas.” (Références Hans Was Heiri de Zimmermann et De Perrot)
“Le projet à Anvers (2013) est une découpe du plan architectural du lieu dans lequel la résidence a été faite, dans des planches de bois de tailles différentes. Ces dernières sont assemblées dans des combinaisons diverses venant ainsi ponctuer l’espace extérieure de la fondation (plusieurs hectares). Le plan est ainsi modifié et la vision de l’espace aussi.” (Références présentes dans la fondation : Aeneas Wilder et Jason Von der Woude)