La Galerie Nationale Presents: Cultural Crossroads by Tahar Ben Jelloun
One of France’s most celebrated writers and Goncourt prizewinner exhibits in the Middle East for the first time, during Dubai Art Week 2018, in partnership with Institut du Monde Arabe
12th February 2018, Dubai, UAE – La Galerie Nationale is pleased to announce its upcoming solo exhibition, featuring works on canvas from famed Moroccan writer and Goncourt prizewinner Tahar Ben Jelloun. The exhibition, entitled, ‘Cultural Crossroads’, represents Ben Jelloun’s first show in the Middle East and is the fruit of a friendship between Tahar and Guillaume Cuiry, director and curator of Dubai-based La Galerie Nationale. Running from 19 March – 15 September, the pieces will debut during Dubai Art Week 2018 in the hub of Alserkal Avenue. Importantly, the exhibition also marks partnership with the Institut de Monde Arabe, with 2018 the official year of UAE-Franco Relations.
Poet and novelist Tahar Ben Jelloun is famous for his novels The Sand child and of his suite The Sacred Night, which was awarded the French Goncourt prize in 1987. Other novels include The Happy Marriage, Leaving Tangier, and L’Ablation. His journey into visual self-expression started in 2010 by coloring a friend’s enlarged drawings. In 2013 he painted his first blank canvas and embraced painting like he embraced writing. Since then, he has been exhibited in Rome, Turin, Palermo, Marrakech, Tangier and in 2017 at the Arab World Institute in Paris.
The Dubai show will feature more than 20 works on canvas; delightful expressions of natural joy in bright, engaging colours; flowers, butterflies and bird-like forms. Nothing overly heavy of complicated is evident, but the viewer can notice other symbols that recall shapes in Arabic script and illustrations on ancient walls with a visual reference to the hybrid nature of the Arab self-identity and multi-faceted cultural representation. The desert scenes convey the stillness and calm of Morocco’s southern sands, contrasted with strange buildings like long-deserted Casbah ruins. As with his written work, Ben Jelloun is a relentless explorer of the human condition and man’s relation with the world around him.
Guillaume Cuiry, Gallery Director comments: “It is with great pleasure that the team and I bring Tahar Ben Jelloun to the region, in what we anticipate will be a stand-out show in the 2018 Art Week calendar. As Dubai gains the confidence of the international collector, we wanted to produce a show that moves us beyond cliché and deeply explores the relationship and interconnections at play in Arab culture. We hope that Ben Jelloun’s work will appeal to serious investors and art enthusiasts alike.”
Ben Jelloun comments, “Poetry has been my major aspiration for a long time. As I persuaded myself that art – and particularly poetry – would save the world, I was convinced I needed to further my childhood scribbles. I have drawn and even painted before starting to write, however I never dared to consider these signs I was laying down on paper seriously. Today, I am lucky to be welcomed by La Galerie Nationale for my first exhibition in the Middle East. Although I have treated my painting work more professionally, I nevertheless claim the right not to take it seriously. What was taken from my instinct, I find it in painting, in my “advanced scribbles” laid across bigger spaces and now hanging on walls.
I have often collided with luck, light and its mysteries. My hand was guided from within me, going joyfully from words to shapes to the most jubilant colors. My writings come from pain and suffering. I opened my eyes to the injustices and my first texts were poems of denunciation. Yet I refused to spend my life lamenting the fact that man is man to man, worse than wolf, worse than hyena.
Some people bear a light and a grace that can make you forget about the tragedies committed by the bastards. My paintings are certainly born, sparked or even imposed upon by those solar beings.
The paintings remind of the homeland, the back country of my imaginary world brewed from my travels, encounters and amazements. My paintings are the rhythm of my breathing, my stubborn freedom and my desire to live in a color-shifting meadow where I could continue believing in spite of everything, that art will save the world”.