We were so struck by the image you see
on this month’s cover that we knew we wanted to use it
the moment we saw it and, of course, wanted to then know more about the man
behind the camera.
Not only did Hassan Hajjaj
shoot the image on this month’s cover and the images on these pages, he’s also
responsible for the truly personality-catching shots of our Artist of the
Month, Simo Lagnawi. As you’ll see, those images capture the essence of the
musician - the traditional and the modern man of Gnawa music – so effortlessly
whilst aesthetically blowing you away.
When you meet Hassan
though, you quickly come to realize that he’s more than merely a photographer.
He’s a man of many talents (he designed and constructed the central ‘Diwaniya’
at REUSE 5.0 for example) and his life seems to be a constant evolution. He’s
designed a restaurant, builds furniture from old signs, owns a shop in London,
and in the 80’s even launched his own clothing label called RAP.
The vibrancy of Hassan’s
work is a feast for the eyes and the poignancy of the themes is stimulation for
the mind. His work fuses the soul of Middle Eastern souks with the urbanity of
London streets, exploring themes of tradition in our modern, global, branded
world. His ability to hold a mirror up to society by focusing on objects we see
(and consume) on a daily basis raises questions about the world we live in. The
upturned Arabic branded Coke crates on our cover speak volumes about this.
Tell us a
little bit about your background, how all this got started…
I was born in Morocco and
came to live in London at the age of fourteen in 1973. I came out of school
with no qualifications. Due to this, I worked many odd jobs from gardener,
working in a timber yard, to working at Woolworths. Then I became unemployed
for a few years and during this time got involved with opening a fashion shop
while promoting clubs, DJs and bands. I also assisted fashion stylist Andy
Blake for magazines and catwalk shows. I worked with Zak Ove on his music promo
videos and curated some art shows at my store. All these experiences come out
in my art.
You’re a man of many differing
talents, has there been a natural evolution in your work?
Yes. I think it all
happened naturally as I never thought of becoming an artist.
Do you have a preferred medium?
Not really, as I like to stay free.
What themes do you explore with
Life around me, from travelling, living between
the two places (London and Morocco), people I meet, food I eat, and music I
Both. It gives me balance
in my life as a person.
the modern and the global brand, with the traditional and the local, what are
you trying to say with this?
I have worked with what is around me. As a 60’s
child there was a lot of branding. Growing up in Morocco with tradition and the
artisanal, and then in London with all its influences. The work that I show is
like a peep through a keyhole into my background in Morocco and London.
What inspires you?
Art, travel, music, fashion, food, color,
people, sun, rain, happy, sad.
You have a shop in London…
Yes, I got this shop from
the government and I was using it as a base at first; but the area has become
very trendy so I decided to turn it into a shop to show my and some friends'
And you designed a
restaurant/bar in Paris…
This work took about
fifteen years to finish at ‘Andy Wahloo’ in Paris. I was doing shows with this
body of work in the 90's and Momo (restaurateur Mourad Mazouz) was sponsoring
me. When he got this empty space in Paris he asked me to turn it into a bar
with my work.
Tell us more about your use of
the word ‘Wahloo’…
'Andy' means ‘I’ and 'wahloo' means 'nothing'.
It is because my work was seen as kind of Andy Warholesque and this body of
work was inspired by recycling that I decided to call it Andy Wahloo (sounds
like Andy Warhol).
What are you currently working
I have two solo shows in the autumn with Rose
Issa Gallery in London and the Third Line Gallery in Dubai.