Maxime Ben Haïm in The Yiddish Forverts. Dec.19 .2004

From Meknes to Montreal, a life recalled through paintings. By Chana Pollack

This week we are exhibiting the oil paintings of Montreal based Moroccan Jewish artist Maxime Ben Haim. He was born in Meknes,
a small historical town supported by the Sultan since the 15 th. Century. Meknes and nearby villages, have always been thehome to Jewish learning,
and have historic relationships with many famous rabbis such as Maimonides who studied in neighbouring Fez in the 15 th century.
Most of the rabbis of Meknes and the surrounding towns moved on to Palestineor were sent to towns throughout Morocco. It was once known as
the " small Jerusalem of Morocco ". Ben Haim stayed in Meknes until he was19, at which point he left to study graphic arts in Paris,
on a full scholarship. He soon returned upon finishing his studies, and worked as a graphic designer. He opened a studio in Casablanca,
at the time when Graphic arts were just beginning. After the 1967 war, it was " a little bit uncomfortable for us there " he says,"not really scary,
but we thought it was perhaps time to move, that was our perception." -and so he immigrated to Paris, France. Ben Haim sees some of his
artistic influences from the Ecole de Paris movement, which includes masters such as Bonnard and even Picasso and Matisse,
through he says he is more illustrative and anecdotal. Indeed his paintings tell stories, even when they feature buildings or one individual's image.
He says he tries to tell the story of this community of Meknes, and relies on his strong childhood memories, but works spontaneously on the paper,
painting with oils. He doesn't rely on photographs or other forms of documentation. For him, memory is the source of history and narrative.
Ben Haim has exhibited internationally, and would be interested in exhibiting in the United States as well.Here in the pages of The Yiddish
Forverts, he hopes to encourage new viewers of his work, to find connections between the idea of a small jewish town in Morocco and
the Jewish rhythms of life in the shtetls of Eastern Europe. Ben Haim sees further parallels between Meknes and the Askenazy
experience of shtetl living in the intensity of religious observance of both, and the ensuing ambience. In Morocco, Jews were forced to live
in what was called the " Mellah ", which was like the Pale of Settlements or other restricted regions where Jews lived separately from the gentiles,
and were occasionally set apart to live in "protectorates" under royal patronage. Meknes was a special place set apart for the Jews by
the Sultan of Morocco for their protection as well as to enable them to practice Jewish culture away from the general Moslem majority.
The mellah of Meknes was surrounded by city walls, which helped to invoque an interior mystical type of Jewish observance.
One of Ben Haim`s favorite paintings is where he accompanies his grand father to morning prayers. He recalls walking his grandfather to shul
in the early morning light, and says he found that light to be " very mystical and religious." These are some of the memories which inspired his paintings.
"I kept this memory very clear in my heart and wanted to reconstitute it in this painting. When I made painting,
I remembered everything- even the special light at this hour of the day." .P.C

Le passé mythologique
L'œuvre de Maxime Ben Haïm, né à Meknès (Maroc), établi à Paris dans les années soixante dix, puis émigré à Montréal,
emporte avec elle le spleen de la terre natale. Les paysages et personnages que campe sa peinture sont d'emblématiques
visions sculptées dans les ombres et la lumière du souvenir, formes hiératiques recrées dans l'idéalisation d'une beauté "
comme un rêve de pierre (…), éternel et muet ainsi que la matière ".Le poème pictural, aux accents baudelairiens, devient une énigme;
le peintre cherche moins à figurer qu'à réinventer, dans l'émotion et la sensualité, les mythologies de son passé.
Les femmes de la tradition sont transcendées en figures sculpturales, dans des effets picturaux de lumières et de matières
qui appartiennent à un imaginaire théatral. Dans ce terrible suspens du temps, éloigné dans un présent imponctuable où
toute durée est tenue à distance, la peinture de Maxime Ben Haïm est un travail de la nécessité de remonter.
Du souvenir et du revenir. Alain Macaire


Vagabond Art est une maison d'édition installée à Montréal, dédiée à la promotion et à la diffusion de
l'œuvre picturale de Maxime Ben Haim, dont la peinture est une galerie d'images où se niche la mémoire d'une
enfance au Maroc.Au mystère des ruelles où l'ombre et la lumière se disputent l'espace, répondent les formes hiératiques de
personnages énigmatiques qu'il campe dans un univers théâtral et dans un passé mythologique. Sa peinture a une voix, celle de la
narration, une odeur, et un parfum la menthe et le jasmin.Elle témoigne d'une mémoire luxuriante et dépouillée à la fois, par laquelle
les particularismes rejoignent l'universel. Maxime Ben Haim vit et travaille à Montréal.Ses peintures sont présentes dans des collections
privées et publiques.

L'œuvre picturale de Maxime Ben Haim, est une galerie d'images où se niche la mémoire d'une enfance au Maroc.
Au mystère des ruelles où l'ombre et la lumière se disputent l'espace, répondent les formes hiératiques de personnages énigmatiques
qu'il campe dans un univers théâtral et dans un passé mythologique. Sa peinture a une voix, celle de la narration, une odeur et un parfum;
la menthe et le jasmin. Elle témoigne d'une mémoire Luxuriante et dépouillée à la fois, par laquelle les particularismes rejoignent l'universel.
Maxime Ben Haim vit et travaille à Montréal. Ses peintures sont présentes dans des collections privées et publiques. www.maximebenhaim.ht.st