Mahjoub BEN BELLA, PAINTINGS.
Jack Lang. « I knew Mahjoub Ben Bella very well. I was fond of his intense oeuvre, full of light and sensitivity. A delicate artist, he painted his dreams and shared them with us. Studying at the School of Fine Arts of Oran, and then in Tourcoing and Paris, he settled in France in the grey warmth of the North, which quickly adopted him. Mahjoub Ben Bella sought to brighten up that welcoming North with his colours, with the light of his Mediterranean origins and of his native country, Algeria, that passionately ran through his veins. His last painting, dating from nine days before his death, was executed from his hospital bed and illustrates perfectly the essence of his art.
He excelled as a painter, but also as an artist with multiple facets. Besides his large and sma ll paintings on canvas, on paper, on panel or on cobblestone, he also realized ceramics, objects, prints, performances and monumental frescoes in public spaces. In 1986, he painted the famous cobblestones of the Paris-Roubaix, L’envers du Nord, a twelve kilometer-long road fresco, a true carpet of signs and a magical scroll of writings. In June 1988, he paid a fraternal tribute to Nelson Mandela at Wembley.
Biography. 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 multifaceted 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. Following Claude and France Lemand’s donation, the museum of the Institut du Monde Arabe now has sixteen of his illuminating paintings. »
« 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).
« His art is an enchanting tune. In his paintings, he composes sacred fields the furrows of which takes us beyond the simple lyricism. He lets himself be taken over by the writing’s vertigo until he reaches a status of ecstasy, until he becomes the cantor of a book of prayers to the glory of Art.” (J.-L. Pinte, ‘Les champs sacrés de Ben Bella’, quoted in Le Figaroscope, Paris).
« Each one of his works conveys the power of a transfiguration. The automatism produces the sign, the light and the substance, all tuned to write dreamy landscapes and forgotten worlds. The music cannot be dissociated from his large frontal compositions and from a joyful sensuality. » (L. Harambourg, La Gazette Drouot).