From his youth in
Morocco, where artist and retired psychoanalyst Alain Attar
was surrounded by his many Muslim friends and a loving Jewish
family, it is the memories of the scented air and narrow
door-lined streets that inspire his art.
says Attar, inform his work and also evoke warm and personal
images. He says that others who view his pieces often feel the
same kind of returning to their own past.
Attar, who is
showing and selling his "open-to-interpretation" abstract and
textural paintings at KIBO African Art Galerie in downtown
Seattle’s historic Pioneer Square, is generating excitement in
his first solo North American exhibit.
"You know how you
will walk on the street and see a paper, or you will smell
something and you don’t know what it is, like something very
far away in your memory?" Attar asked in his classically
French accent. He interviewed with JTNews from his home
in Surrey, British Columbia, where he lives with his wife
Danielle and his son Raphael, 15.
While French is the
language in which he chooses to read books and literature, he
also speaks English, Arabic and a remnant of Hebrew. Attar was
born in Morocco, but the memories he paints gave way to the
anonymity of Paris, where his family moved after his father’s
death when he was just eight years old.
"You try to
remember it and you have to make some association with it.
That is the work of memory. That is your start to rebuild your
own puzzle. I think my work reminds people about themselves
and they build on their own memories. I think my paintings
communicate with people."
In the tradition of
the Jewish texts, says Attar, his work requires many views and
opinions to explain its effect on each individual, much the
way Judaism requires intelligent debate over scripture and
law. Attar said he believes that his art must be interpreted
according to each observer, because the images he paints come
from a place deep in his own memory.
"I think that my
paintings are very Jewish," said Attar. "When you read the
Talmud, it’s very important not to give one an interpretation
to any one question, not to give one direction. People don’t
know exactly what they are seeing, but it reminds them of
something from their past and memories of their childhood."
Attar and his
family left Morocco when Israel was founded in 1948. The
Jewish ghetto, in which they lived safely and peacefully
embedded in the larger Muslim society, was disrupted by the
growing antagonism towards the Jews who lived there.
Attar lived in
Paris for the next 10 years. When he moved to Canada and
joined his sister in Montreal, he attended the University of
Montreal and trained to be a
Attar has two
Bachelor’s degrees - one in philosophy and one in art. He went
on to earn two Master’s degrees in Sociology and the Sciences
In addition to the
five galleries in Canada that sell Attar’s work and now KIBO
Galerie in Seattle, his pieces are also on display at the
Museum of Art in Vancouver, B.C. and the Seattle Art Museum.
"We met just by
luck at a party four or five years ago in Seattle," said
Lucien, the owner of KIBO Galerie and a close friend of Attar.
He speaks in a similarly elegant French accent and for the
purposes of our interview and a degree of humility, preferred
to be identified by his first name only.
"I just lost track
of him," said Lucien, "but when I opened my gallery a year
ago, I saw him there. This was the beginning of the
friendship," he said.
includes another group of countries, similar to Attar’s, that
spans the Ivory Coast, Africa and America. Their bond is a
strong one, not only due to their shared homelands but also,
and maybe more importantly, the art.
"He is the only
contemporary artist in my gallery, everything else is
antique," added Lucien, who values each of Attar’s 23 pieces
on display at his gallery in the $3,200 to $8,000 price range.
"The work and the color are very related to Africa."
KIBO Galerie sells
a wide variety of antique African pieces, from generally
affordable art to museum quality pieces. They also sell
African furnishings and tribal masks from around the world.
Lucien has been collecting African artwork for more than 20
According to the
gallery owner, Attar is officially known in the art world as a
Franco-North African artist. But for the Canadian transplant,
all Attar knows is that he is very busy and works a lot to
keep up with the demand for his artwork.
"His work sells a
lot," added Lucien. "I sell more of his art than the other