Awakenings: Art in Society in Asia 1960s–1990s, a major retrospective at Singapore's National Gallery (14 June–15 September 2019), opens emphatically in flames. At the exhibition's entrance, viewers encounter a wall-sized image from 1964 titled Burning Canvases Floating on the River. The photograph captures a performance by Lee Seung-taek, in which...
When the London-born artist Thomas J Price graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Chelsea College of Arts in 2004, the school's college art prize was by no means his most notable accomplishment as an emerging artist. In 2001, Price presented his much-talked-about work Licked, a daring performance, later profiled on the BBC 4 television...
Without punctuation, She Said Why Me, the title of May Fung's 1989 video presents itself as a statement, rather than a question. It suggests a subject who expects no response, a person prepared to make what she can from being chosen though perplexed by the attention. The video follows a blindfolded woman, then unmasked, through late colonial-era...
Ben Brown Fine Arts is pleased to present the first UK exhibition of French-Algerian artist DjamelTatah whose work has been widely exhibited in France and abroad. Tatah was born in SaintChamondin 1959, a town close to Lyon where his parents migrated in the 1950s. Despite difficultliving conditions, Tatah managed to join the local art school in Saint-Étienne in 1981 where heforged his path as a professional painter and developed the formal principles of his distinct artisticoutput. This exhibition presents twelve mesmerizing oil and wax paintings, monumental in size andtypically Untitled, produced in the last year.
The subject omnipresent in Tatah’s works is the silent figure – the mirror of all humankind, pain,solitude, melancholy, war and peace. Featured isolated, in pairs or in repetition across largecanvases or polyptychs, the silhouettes are consistently depicted in a 1:1 scale. They seldom facethe viewer directly, instead they are found gazing upwards, downwards or far into the distance. Theworks have no title, bringing to the fore issues of identity.
Sourcing ideas from a large portfolio of images, from historically significant works of art to presscuttings, films and personal pictures, Tatah composes his scenes, placing family and friends incarefully choreographed poses which he then photographs. The digital image is projected as lifesize figures onto the canvas, in preparation for a long and meticulous painting process.Wax painting sets the artist’s output apart from others. A method used as early as 1st century AD, inthe famous Fayum portraits for example, wax painting had a lasting impression on Tatah and wasused from very early on in his artistic experiments. This technique allows the artist to imbue mutedcolours with deep luminosity.
The art of silhouette and repetition are two other major aspects in Tatah’s work. Replicated in seriesacross large canvases, the silhouettes first direct the viewer’s attention to the void, to the immensityof the monochrome background surrounding it, ‘taking them out of all that noise into a world ofsilence’ as the artist puts it. Yet this void instantly draws the viewer back to the solitary and majesticfigure, perfectly cut out in the style of a Byzantine icon. One of Tatah’s large Untitled triptychs in theexhibition highlights the artist’s unique use of white paint to outline his characters, almost carvingthem out of the canvas.
In his second version of Femmes d’Alger (1996) – a seminal work in his oeuvre based on the arthistorical subject painted by Delacroix and later Picasso – a single figure is reproduced twenty timeson the same canvas. Similarly, his diptych Untitled (2014), showcased in this exhibition,demonstrates how the artist eerily multiplies his characters, placing two either side of a black divide,and suggesting continued cloning beyond the boundaries of the canvas. This experimentation withrepetition is the basis for the abstract representation of humanity reflected throughout his work.
Tatah’s own pictorial invention is grounded in an ongoing exploration of culture and art from allepochs as varied as Byzantine mosaics and Piero della Francesca to Henri Matisse, BarnettNewman and Francis Bacon. Some of the artist’s most influential discoveries include the Persianand Indian illuminated manuscripts at the British Library in London. The impact of these findings aremanifest in the iconographical compositions as well as the use of triptych configurations and grandcanvases seen in this exhibition.
Djamel Tatah was born in Saint-Chamond, France in 1959. He studied at the École des Beaux-Artsde Saint Étienne from 1981 to 1986 and moved to Marseille in 1989. In 1999, Tatah held his firstsolo exhibition at the Galerie Liliane and Michel Durand-Dessert in Paris. Widely exhibited in Franceand abroad, his works have been included in solo and group exhibitions at: Guangdong Museum ofArt, Guangzhou (2005); Museum of Fine Arts, Nantes (2008); MAMAC, Nice (2009); Villa Medici,Rome (2010); Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Algiers (2013); Fondation Maeght, Saint-Paul de Vence (2013); Museum of Modern Art, Saint-Étienne (2014), and features in the publiccollections of the Assemblée Nationale, Paris, and Centre Pompidou, Paris. Tatah currently livesand works in Provence and teaches at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris.
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