• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 7477

    International Modern and Contemporary Art

    31 October 2007, Jumeirah Emirates Towers Hotel

  • Lot 69

    MAHJOUB BEN BELLA (ALGERIAN, B. 1946)

    Ete indien arc en ciel

    Price Realised  

    MAHJOUB BEN BELLA (ALGERIAN, B. 1946)
    Ete indien arc en ciel
    signed and dated 'BenBella 02' (lower right); titled and signed 'Totem Indien Mahjoub Ben Bella 02' (on the reverse)
    oil on canvas
    45¾ x 35in. (116 x 89cm.)
    Painted in 2002


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    Ben Bella's compositions are characterized by a heavy thickness of colour and repeated application of sign-like marks which recall script. Recurrent features in his visual repertoire are the square structure, lines and bands, drawn architecturally, filled with graphic imagery. Colours are concentrated into forms, filled with talismanic script. Together these elements create a fusion between signs based on Arabic calligraphy, and Abstract Expressionism in European painting.

    Ben Bella tried to uncover the science behind Arabic Calligraphy- the not only of the literal significance of the words but also their pictorial forms. Ben Bella's work later discarded the literal meaning altogether, keeping only pictorial forms. The resulting dense works make equal sense in both a European and an Arab context. The script is decoupled from its original function but retains its plastic form. The strong colours in his paintings do not conceal the script-like symbols, but define the different areas and allow them to spread across the compositions.
    Ben Bella is a versatile artist who paints not only canvas but also ceramic pieces, fabrics, tiles, walls, everyday objects such as plates, and Mitro stations. One of his most famous works adorns the paving stones of Paris-Roubaix. Excecuted in 1986, this is a road fresco which extends 12 kilometres (35,000 square metres).