From 3 January to 13 March 2022 - Galerie Claude Lemand


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).

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