It’s not food, it’s Art, opined Momo’s friend. Exactly, Momo’s work belongs in a gallery, not a restaurant, on a wall and not a table, and in the eyes not the mouth. His creative technique is counterpoint to that of a chef. In nouvelle cuisine, a chef uses artistic conceits of color, perspective, texture and shape to enhance the visual appeal and originality of the food. Momo, conversely , applies his culinary expertise by combining ethnic ingredients, cream sauce reduction, emulsification, pan deglazing and precision knife skills to his art.
Momo’s work can certainly be appreciated while sipping a hearty Cabernet, but clearly, it is meant to be viewed and not eaten. His intent is to show the viewer the beauty and flavor of his African heritage and tradition by using food as his medium. His art, more aboriginal than classical, more indigenous than modern, evokes comparisons to Navaho sand paintings and rudimentary French cave pictograms.
Momo does not depict Africa as a victim continent; he chooses to present Africa’s other face, or literally, faces. These faces are clearly not those of starvation or Aid’s. They are intimate, festive and particular, but not specific to any single individual.The viewer is always encouraged to use his imagination to create an environmental context, since his portraits have a masklike quality and seem to be suspended in mid-air. Perhaps his subject was captured selling his wares in a souk market or recalling a falcon from the hunt. Who knows?
In this series of portraits, two techniques predominate. The first is the use of sand-like ingredients to “paint” images. Momo’s inspiration for this painstaking process comes from his observation of the interaction of weather and desert dunes in Algeria where the wind and water continually rearrange the sand into endless patterns lit by ever changing sunlight. This particular style is also influenced by Tibetan powders whose create “dul-tson-kyil-khor” or mandalas of colored powders whose purpose is to heal people and environments, a purpose which Momo believes is spiritually relevant to Africa. Once finished these spiritual mandalas are swept up and dispersed, reminding us of life’s emphemeral nature. These photographs are all that now exist of this series of Momo’s art.
The second technique uses a smear effect, derived from African tribal life where the face becomes a canvas on which color is smeared, a symbolic ritual that has always fascinated the artist.By creating a mask, the wearer transforms himself into a mythological being with heightened powers and a higher sense of purpose who can then participate in important ceremonial and tribal functions.In these cultures, masks are obvious and literal, but in others they are more about posture, attitude and facial expressions. Momo’s portraits are uniquely expressive and intriguing because he not only captures the beauty of his subject’s cultural face or mask, but it’s spiritual essence as well.
These two artistic techniques are also an integration of masculine and feminine philosophical principles.The meticulous placement of granular ingredients is masculine, and the flowing smear of color is feminine. The combination balances the energy in this series.
Momo has never been to art school, so his technique is not the result of formal education or training . His style is derived from a childhood spent in Algeria observing how the weather deposits and configures natural elements on a sand dune or dried up river bed.His unusual techniques are the appropriate means to help him achieve his distinctive artistic ends. momo’s work is solidly in the category of art and not artistic food. But by using various food ingredients as “paint”, he encourages the viewer’s imagination to consider how each portrait might taste adding yet another dimension. The viewer is then encouraged not only to consider the aesthetic and spiritual qualities, but the flavor and harmony as well.