Mahjoub Ben Bella


The artist Mahjoub Ben Bella died yes­terday morning in Lille, sur­rounded by his rel­a­tives, after a long and coura­geous fight against the dis­ease.
Claude and France Lemand share the grief of his family and join his many friends, artists, col­lec­tors, art his­to­rians and museum cura­tors around the world, to pre­sent to his wife Brigitte and to his chil­dren Souhir and Nadgib our deepest con­do­lences and express our admi­ra­tion and loy­alty to the great painter and to his so gen­erous and radiant per­son­ality.

Claude Lemand.
Mahjoub Ben Bella was born in the Western part of Algeria, in Maghnia, in 1946. He did his artistic training first at the School of Fine Arts of Oran, then in Tourcoing and finally in Paris, and set­tled in France. Ben Bella is a multi-faceted artist, pro­ducing mon­u­mental art­works, painting ceramics, objects, in addi­tion to large and small paint­ings on canvas, on paper, panel or even on stone, as well as per­for­mances and mon­u­mental com­po­si­tions for public spaces. His works have been exhib­ited in many solo and group shows in museums, art foun­da­tions and gal­leries across Europe and the Middle East. Besides having his works fea­tured in promi­nent pri­vate col­lec­tions across the globe, Ben Bella’s oeuvre is also pre­sent in the col­lec­tions of twenty museums and public col­lec­tions.

Jean-Louis Pinte.
The most dis­tinc­tive aspect of his painting is his rep­e­ti­tion of a par­tic­ular sign or pat­tern, and how this sign or pat­tern res­onates like a mag­ical song. However, Ben Bella does not illus­trate nor does he fol­lows the illus­tra­tive steps of an ordi­nary Arabic cal­lig­raphy. Instead, he simply extracts from it a musi­cality that is given life through both his lines and colours. This even­tu­ally forms a music score that per­me­ates throughout the painting, the sounds of which pul­sate and vibrate across the art­work’s sur­face. Whilst he neglects the silence of a monochrome sur­face, he gen­er­ously covers his canvas with an abun­dance of qua­vers and other notes that dif­fuse the melody across the painting, trans­porting it towards a syn­co­pated and linear abstrac­tion. On some occa­sions, Ben Bella sur­passes this simple tonality and tries to carry the viewer away into life’s rustle and into its quiv­ering land­scapes. In the north of France, Ben Bella is renowned for the fres­coes he pro­duced along the roads, dec­o­rating more than 12 kilo­me­ters of cob­ble­stone with his signs and pat­terns. In his canvas paint­ings, he cre­ates sacred fields, the fur­rows of which lead the viewer to tran­scend the simple lyri­cism. It seems that he allows him­self to be taken over by the ver­tigo of writing up until ecstasy, thus becoming the bard of a book of prayers cel­e­brating the glory of art. (Jean-Louis Pinte, Les champs sacrés de Ben Bella, Figaroscope).

Mustapha Laribi.
For a very long time, Ben Bella’s cre­ations were reduced to being qual­i­fied as an Arabic written form, yet his oeuvre only pre­served the pic­to­rial aspect, pro­ducing a rich art­work that descends both from Arabic cal­lig­raphy and European painting. Whether he focuses on the pro­fu­sion of motifs or on the effects of his chro­matic scale, Ben Bella cre­ates a con­tin­uous and metic­u­lous dia­logue of signs and colors. (Mustapha Laribi, Algérie à l’affiche, 1998).

Metropolitan Museum.
At nine­teen years old, Mahjoub Ben Bella left Algeria to study at the École des Beaux-Arts in Tourcoing, France, then attended the École des Arts Décoratifs and École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. He estab­lished him­self inter­na­tion­ally as a diverse and expan­sive artist who paints not only canvas but also ceramic pieces, fab­rics, tiles, walls, everyday objects such as plates, and Métro sta­tions. Ben Bella also uses color to invent a new lan­guage of signs. Working from his uncon­scious, he cre­ates spon­ta­neous images based on instinct and memory. The pro­cess and the resulting art­work there­fore emerge from a trance­like state. His work evokes both Arabic cal­lig­raphy and European abstrac­tion, the signs and sym­bols mate­ri­al­izing out of com­po­si­tion and rhythm. Throughout, the move­ment of let­ters and cal­lig­raphy of sym­bols, tra­di­tional or invented, sig­nify an explo­ration of the senses, of colour, and of form.

Copyright © Galerie Claude Lemand 2012.

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