Najia Mehadji was born in Paris in 1950. She lives and works in Paris (France) and Essaouira (Morocco). By the 1970s, Mehadji’s oeuvre was already marked by a “tangible abstraction” that derived simultaneously from contemporary music and from her work on the body in the experimental environment of the Université de Paris VIII. During this period she presented several performances that incorporated drawing and sound; she also contributed to the feminist review Sorcières, which published her early drawings.
In 1974 she earned a master’s degree in visual arts and art history from the Université de Paris I, and also attended the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris.
In the 1980s, Mehadji began to investigateterrogate the materials of pictorial practice. She decided to employ unusual media such as gesso and transparent paper on large pieces of raw canvas in order to generate symbolic, highly architectured, geometric forms.
In 1985 she spent a year in Essaouira, Morocco, on an extra-mural scholarship from the Villa Medicis. Mehadji would later return there with increasingly frequency, producing her Icare series in Essaouira. This cycle came to a close in 1994 with the Coupole series, which explicitly referred to Islam and signaled her interest in transcultural architectural forms.
In 1996, Mehadji changed technique and hence style, adopting large oil pastels that enabled her to draw long, continuous lines on raw canvas, generating spheres of pure reds or yellows, which yielded three series known as Gradients, Chaosmos, and Souira.
In 1997 she taught drawing for a year as a guest artist at the École Nationale des Beaux-Arts de Paris. Her recent works display a symbolism related to nature, notably to the cosmos and the plant kingdom, establishing a logical counterpoint to the geometric forms of her early career. Hence the “structures of flux” as exemplified by the Fleur-flux series, in which Mehadji revisits the universal symbol of the pomegranate, whose stylized flower runs throughout her canvases, drawings, and watercolors.
Her interest in floral and cosmic themes can also be seen in three series titled Pivoines, Vanités, and Volutes. Since 2005, Mehadji has been producing digital works that incorporate details from engraved plates by Goya.