Denis MARTINEZ. An Algerian Destiny - ALGERIA MY LOVE - Exhibition.
(After Anissa Bouayed)
Born in 1941 in Algeria, Denis Martinez concentrates in the different prisms of his creation, which runs over more than sixty years, the artistic history of contemporary Algeria, and History in general: from a modest family of Spanish origin, he will choose, after 1962, independent Algeria as his fatherland. Professor of drawing at the School of Fine Arts of Algiers from the age of 21, smuggler and pedagogue with two generations of young Algerian artists in training, he was the initiator in 1967, with Choukri Mesli, of the Aouchen group (Tattoos in Arabic), advocating an art both deeply rooted in the Algerian tradition and full of modernity and freedom of expression. A pillar of the artistic life of young independent Algeria, his work was the subject of a retrospective at the Museum of Algiers in 1985. Forced into exile in 1994, during the dark years, he settled in Marseilles and taught at the Aix-en-Provence School of Art. The artist now shares his life between France and Algeria.
The work of Denis Martinez could be compared to that of the surrealists or the dadaists, the artist claiming rather his taste for the popular arts; but it is perhaps the resolutely "primitive" character that would best define his work, in his constant desire to break the traditional limits of painting. Assemblages, vertiginous drawings of virtuosity, painting in all its forms and on all supports, - from the canvas to the walls, from the interior to the exterior, without forgetting his installations and his famous performances. Over the course of a unique artistic trajectory, combining a rich formal vocabulary and inimitable trait, this promoter of the polyphony of the arts will have given free rein to the deconstruction of codes and to his taste, so rare in the art world, for the collective work.
Denis Martinez, Porte de l’illumination, 1991. Acrylic on canvas, 200 x 200 cm. © Donation Claude and France Lemand. IMA Museum.
Denis Martinez, Anzar (the Berber prince of the rain), 2001. Acrylic on canvas, 200 x 300 cm. © Donation Claude and France Lemand. IMA Museum.
Two works from the Marseille period. At the beginning of the 1990s and the "dark years" in Algeria, Denis Martinez’s reflection on space and the way of taking possession of it, an ever-recurring questioning of a painter, took on anxiety and testified to the confrontation of irreconcilable universes. The aesthetic treatment of the theme of the door, dear to the painter, evolves, becoming the place of contrary tensions but also of openness to all possibilities. Thus, of this Door of illumination, where the revelation seems to come from the confrontation of antagonistic forces, which cross the subject at the crossing of the threshold, like so many arrows. Subsequently, in other works, his "Doors" will become a place of violence, with electric colors, clashing, violently contrasting, to signify the imminence of danger, felt in front of an exterior space that has become deadly, that of civil war. .
The reference words, which the artist uses in his compositions to question and capture the gaze, are superimposed in their worried and vain vehemence on the explicitly aggressive signs that strike the canvas. The work From one shroud to another, produced in 1999 in exile in Marseille, like several of these gates of hell, prolongs the testimony of these years of lead. The long rectangles that surround the dazed character follow one another, aligned like so many shrouds, surmounted by words in Tifinagh, Arabic, French, a pathetic expression of disarray and the omnipresence of violence and death.