Untitled | Ben Ali, 2018
A unique passport
is a human comedy
joyful and alive.
- Michael Bobot
A former fisherman who lost his boat to the sea, Ali is now a self-taught painter living in the seaside town of Essaouira, about 200km west of Marrakech, Morocco. It was here that I happened upon this untitled piece in 2018.
Ali has set up permanent residency in the Joteya (junk market) of the town and uses it's unique bounty of plastic, linen, old TVs, broken furniture, fishing oars and gas canisters as idiosyncratic canvases for his paintings.
The figures of Ali’s work are amorphous representations of everyday creatures and objects brought into his private universe; an unconscious and ethereal world where they exist in a space somewhere between imagination and memory. In this world the people, places and things that Ali paints are abstracted and their purpose becomes indefinite. They are free from cause, effect or agenda.
Despite the macabre undertones of his work, there is a playful and endearing simplicity to this painting and at the heart of the world that Ali has created. The off-kilter goofiness of his characters is disarming and experiencing his art is as enjoyable as it is thought-provoking. For me, his works are inspiring beacons of expression that proudly indulge in & celebrate the power of the imagination and of the unconscious.
In light of this, I have created a playlist that celebrates musical freedom and eccentricity with an uninhibited disregard for boundaries and convention. It’s a collection of compositions inspired by the quirk and energy of Ali’s work itself. At its core are the hypnotic rhythms of Moroccan Gnawa music, alongside a hodgepodge of experimental sounds from across the musical spectrum; a salute to the innovators and 'outsiders' of music who share much in common with Ali and his story.