One day, in the 1980s, I picked a wallpaper catalogue in the street. It was like an image book with plenty of different stories in each page. I was intrigued by the patterns, the colours and the diversity of textures on each page.One day I tried to work on one page with floral patterns.I added trunks to the flowers, they looked like trees then I inserted an image of a dog between two patterns. The experience of inserting my image into a found image made by an unknown artist was so exciting that I kept working on that wall paper catalogue for weeks.I inserted imaginary animals, snakes crocodiles, tigers, dragons etc. Mimane, who was two years old invented the word «Qa Qa» to name the images of  the monsters on the wall paper catalogue.


After the wallpaper catalogue I started collecting old sheets of wall paper to work on bigger size. The wallpaper experience oriented me to a new support: The printed fabrics. I used old draperies and old curtains before I start buying fabrics that I selected in the market place.The printed fabrics enabled me to work on a larger scale and the  regular visual patterns in the printed fabric opened new paths to image making :The printed patterns appearing in the foreground added new depth to the image and the regularity of the patterns brought new visual tempo to the painting, besides, there was a stimulating challenge finding the way in and out of a labyrinth  made of  diverse visual elements structuring the surface(Shapes, colours textures..).


Introducing my own image in new visual environment is a process of endless negotiation with the material support of the painting.The making of an image is easier when the support  bridges the gap between the image you conceive in your mind and the one you handle on the material level. I remember when I was working on the St. Sebastian series, I replaced the arrows  on St.Sebastian's body by the printed patterns of branches which was already in the fabric.I liked the idea of «the miracle of St. Sebastien» being in bringing the arrows back to their  natural origin as branches. For me that was the miracle of image making!


In this miraculous domain of image making sunflowers patterns led me to Van Gogh's stories and bananas' patterns led to Joséphine Baker stories.

Stay on the scene like a «sewing machine» ! - #ASSEMBLEDFABRICS 

One day , in the 1990s, I needed to  sew three different fabrics together. The guy in a small sewing shop in town asked for a price that seemed highly exaggerated. I decided to buy a sewing machine and to make my sewing myself. I paid a reasonable price for my first sewing machine. I took the machine in my studio but I was unable to use a sewing machine! When I was a child my mother used to sew on a treadle sewing machine. We were not allowed to touch my mother's machine .That was a «Singer», a sacred object, preserved from the dust by a sort of  a coat beautifully decorated with floral embroidery. With my old machine, I had to go through thread jamming, fabric getting stuck in my machine, needle breaking etc..« Sometimes I felt like a motherless child », I really missed my mother during the two or three weeks I spent trying to tame my machine.


At the end of march 2008, a Berlin Communication Agency invited me to participate to a poster competition for the FIFA World Cup 2010 in South Africa (summer 2010). I am not a football amateur but when I saw the names of interesting artists in the list of participants, I decided to contribute with my work. I wanted to make an image about the paradox of football as a peaceful game of war ! I also wanted an image that could be be rooted in African as well as in European traditions of image making. My experience with the sewing machine led me to the « Asafo » flags tradition in Ghana. The flags tradition was initiated by the Akan people of South Ghana in the 18th century. The terme « Asafo » signifies a community of warriors. Their flags illustrate their heroic actions of resistance to colonialism. At that time I was  interested by the French painter Eugene Delacroix (1798-1863). So, I spontaneously opted for «Jacob wrestling with the Angel»(1857). Two persons, a man(Jacob), and  an angel (or a woman?) wrestling in a strange manner close to a tango dance. The physical attitude brought to my mind the famous image of the French footballer, Zidane, head-butting the Italian player Materazzi during the match between France and Italy in the World Cup 2006. That was one of the rare moments where the  violent physical contact between football players  was understood as a political action. Many Africans celebrated the Zidane headbutt, in the internet, as heroic: Zidane the colonized African hitting back Materazzi the European colonizer, a modern anti-colonial version of  «St. Georges slaying the Dragon». Football is a game, a game of war and peace. If « war is a continuation of politics by other means » (Clausewitz), then the Africans would give everything to make football a continuation of war by other means.

The Watercolour path I - #ASSEMBLEDFABRICS 

« If I dont have red I use blue » is the Picasso quote I prefer, because it brings the  making of an image to real situations where the maker makes with the available materials and tools. I first used transparent fabrics on an assembled fabrics image because it was  the only available fabrics at hand. I discovered that transparent fabrics opened a path to watercolour technique through the overlapping of several layers of coloured fabrics. When I used transparent fabrics on my image «Workers of the war unite»(2010), the visual effect was interesting because I saw what could follow. I used my watercoulour experience to build new image entirely composed with transparent fabrics. The fact that the image changes according to the changing light made me aware of  the quality of light in the fabrics of images. I started introducing layers of reflective fabrics (gold, silver etc.) beneath the layers of transparent coloured fabrics.(« Application Mao »,2011, « I have a Drone »,2014 …).


« A couple of years ago, surprised by the price that was asked of him to sew a frame along one of his artwork, he buys a second-hand sewing machine. Three weeks and a dozen of broken needles later: « I realized I could sew: it was wonderful. The machine started to obey my command. » Since then, he perfected his sewing skills. Opaque fabrics turned into shining ones, silvery or golden reflections throw back light around, and perception changes depending on the lighting, the angle and the distance. He also favors translucent veils which he says « work like watercolour ». This discovery opened lots of new paths. Very large format artwork became possible and experimentations flourished. « Until then, I told myself I was part of the European tradition of painting, and that I was, same as everyone, vowed to search for that very thin margin of innovation left. Suddenly, I find myself with all these possibilities, these paths that I was not expecting… ». Translated excerpt of the article by Philippe Dagen in LE MONDE (Nov. 2015.11.5)

Read the original article here: https://www.lemonde.fr/arts/article/2015/11/11/hassan-musa-veut-en-decoudre-avec-les-images_4807128_1655012.html


If  I have to define a painting, I would say it is a successive overlapping of paint layers obliterated by the last one. Only  the painter knows what is beneath the last layer. Thinking about a painting in terms of layers opens the reflexion about the problematic question of the limit. When does an image is finished? When you write a book, the work is finished when it reaches the readers. « A writer only begins a book. A reader finishes it ». Samuel Johnson's words suppose that the reader reads the book once and for all. I know  that some painters who keep their images in studio, are tempted to return to old paintings and re-work them over again and again. Maybe because the gaze is changing every instant while the image remains stable.

In 2012, during a a six months stay in Kunming,(China), I worked on a transparent fabrics image representing a US dollar. At that time, I was interested by the symbolic loads in the image and the text of the US Dollar. In 2013, I integrated my Dollar in an installation  about the Olympic Games :«Citius ,Altius Fortius» , in Pascal Polar Gallery in Brussels.

A few years after the Pascal Polar exhibition I came back to the Dollar image and introduced the figure of Joséphine Baker over the Dollar image and I entitled the new image : « La Charmeuse de Serpents » after Henri Rousseau's  famous painting(1907). Recently I exhibited « La Charmeuse de Serpents » in Galerie Maia Muller (Paris, 2019).Does that mean that my image is immune to metamorphosis? I am not quite sure!


Let me share with you the process behind the making of this recent assembled fabrics piece: THE GOOD COOK.


One of my most recent assembled fabrics project was the picture book AMIS D’UN JOUR. A collaborative project between author Jessica Reuss-Nliba, Didier Reuss and myself, after a Nigerian tradition tale (Editions Grandir, 2012). Here is a translated excerpt of the tale:

« The young snake and the young toad compared themselves during a a good part of the afternoon. They were both really different, but this difference did not stop them from playing together, laugh and bond. So, the played, jumped and wiggled all day long. The afternoon passed very quickly and night started falling. The two friends tenderly embraced, wished one another a good night, then, after promising to meet again on the morrow, they parted and headed back home. […] »

I’ve worked with WAD-MUSA to propose 10 signed copies of the book through the online shop https://hassanmusaofficial.com/product/amis-dun-jour-🇫🇷-signed-copy/


To conclude this series of 15 posts about my assembled fabrics work. I chose to share with you one of my most recent assembled fabric artwork: THE TOTAL MADONNA.