PROLOGUE . Texts by Marc Hérissé
Benanteur’s paintings are magical, poised between abstraction and figuration. Transparent, glowing with countless colours and always associated with a precious prismatic refinement, they recall, without ever actually showing them, Brittany’s endless spaces, the sea and the deserts before which this painter dreamed throughout his Algerian youth. Poetry is a constant in this artist’s noble and singular world, about which Youri wrote so tellingly : Magnificently aloof, far from groups and modish cliques, he invents his own space, creates his personal time.
In the eighties, the works painted by this great artist dazzle us with fragments of splintered lights. Here we are at the very core of true impressionism, beyond any figuration, that figuration which the painter was to discover later on, and which he learned to express in such an allusive and sensitive manner after his travels in Italy. Do I mean that I prefer this period to another ? No. I love Benanteur altogether, for that splendid dimpled touch which lets the entire prism’s iridescence shine forth.
From year to year, the Algerian artist, born in 1931, enchants me ever more through his increasing sureness of touch. This painter, who has superbly mastered the synthesis between figuration and abstraction, overwhelms us by two huge polyptychs, simply and enigmatically entitled Triomphe. These works, in which some might see a harmonious combination of colours, nonetheless lead us, if we so wish, towards a large army arising from the shadows. This personal pantheon’s limbo affords us glimpses both of Rembrandt or Rubens, as well as friends alive or dead, cast for all eternity ; you can also see there a tutelary mother-goddess haloed in a lunar brightness. We might glimpse immense landscapes in which one can find one’s way or lose oneself. He has enlarged his strokes, and, under the diaphanous transparencies, embracing the same watercolour-like fluidity, the same light glazes, and beneath vaporous mists, light still surges like a sun in all its glory.
The underlying nostalgia of lost horizons, like in those “Pays - Paysages”, painted by the great Algerian artist, is but one of the facets of his inner world. His splendid oeuvre, universal in its reach, is not only limited to the recurrent viewing of the surroundings of Mostaganem. That is the departure point for a journeying which the artist invites us to share with him. Our eye is forever flickering, marvelling, unable to distinguish the abstract from the figurative, every canvas providing, from one moment to another, a new approach: and so they are revealed to us, multiple, polymorphs, harbingers of mystery, which, like every major work of art be it dramatic, symphonic, poetic or literary, is so rich that one can decode it and interpret it in various ways. Here the tondos, shown among the large square canvases, are not an aesthete’s entertainment, but a focal point, a symbol for the eye and its iris. The palette is iridescent, diaphanous, airy, transparently vibrant, maintained through a very sure touch, masterly, poetic and virile. Flashes of light, be they sunny or stormy, take you beyond the painting’s confines. One is reminded of Turner when faced with these shimmering lights. It is quite another world, but it holds the same magical quality.
Translated from French by Ann Cremin.
Two Books are available:
BENANTEUR, Monograph Volume 1. Paintings.
BENANTEUR, Monograph Volume 2. Graphic Works