Algerian artist Baya in the spotlight at a new exhibition in Paris

PARIS: The mysterious Fatma Haddad, known by her stage name Baya, rose to fame at just 16 years old. She was elevated to icon status by a generation of postwar French intellectuals. More than 20 years after her death in 1998, she continues to be revered by critics and collectors alike.

A new exhibition at the Institut du monde Arabe in Paris, with works donated by Claude and France Lemand, presents a selection of their drawings, gouache and sculptures in a comprehensive tribute to Baya’s career, which spanned more than five decades. Many of the masterpieces on display in “Baya: Mujeres en la jardín de ella,” which runs through March 2023, come from the archives left behind by the artist’s adoptive mother, Marguerite Caminat.

Algerian artist Baya in the spotlight at a new exhibition in Paris please use but not main baya at an exhibition of algerian artists in september 1998. copyright photo a. o. mohand min
Berry at an exhibition of Algerian artists in September 1998. (AO Mohand-min)

Caminat was the first and greatest supporter of Baya’s exceptional artistic talent, which was verified by the Parisian gallery owner Aimé Maeght on a trip to Algiers. Maeght invited the 16-year-old to contribute to a major exhibition in Paris in November 1947, where her work dazzled art lovers in the French capital, including André Breton, who wrote: “I don’t speak like so many others to regret an end , but to promote a start. The beginning of an era of emancipation and harmony, in radical rupture… And, of this beginning, Baya is queen.”

“Baya was a talented artist and a hard worker,” Claude Lemand, one of the exhibition’s curators, told Arab News. She “she affirmed her personality, her identity, her autonomy, her decision (to be an artist) from a very young age, but without ever offending others.”

See also  L'Oréal Paris Revitalift Retinol Night Cream review: £28 cream that gave our testers 'Botox-like' results

Algerian artist Baya in the spotlight at a new exhibition in Paris baya lady and birds in blue 1993. gouache sur papier 75 x 100 cm. coll. part. photo alberto ricci min 3
BAYA, ‘The Lady and the Blue Birds’, 1993. (Alberto Ricci-min)

In 1953, Baya married musician El Hadj Mahfoud Mahieddine and took a 10-year break to devote herself to her family at her home in Blida, Algeria. As she began to produce art again, new perspectives were revealed, no doubt influenced by the Algerian War of Independence, which had taken place in the interim.

It was a crucial period for the artist. “Starting in 1963, he developed new themes, beginning with his landscapes, his Garden of Eden, a joyous celebration of nature and life… surrounded by sunny mountains and dunes, with four rivers, the symbolic trees of Algeria, the olive tree and date palm, and full of birds and fish of all colors. The birds sing, the fish dance,” Lemand said. “Oasis or island, the Garden of Eden has the colors of Algeria: the blue of the Mediterranean, the red of its land, the green of its vegetation, the gold of its dunes.”

Some critics noted the repetitive nature of Baya’s work, and in response, Lemand explained, she developed other themes, including her “living stills”, which often incorporated musical instruments, inspired by her husband’s profession.

“All of her elements (still lifes) are represented as living beings, with eyes always open to others and to the world, with expressive attitudes of seduction and mutual affection, participating in the general harmony, in a symphony of shapes and colors. Lemand added.

Starting in 1963, Baya developed a third theme: women: “Musicians, dancers, mothers, women alone in their garden or in groups, flourishing and happy, standing or sitting, surrounded by musical instruments and birds with which they converse” Lemand said. .

See also  Women dominate the International Booker 2022 shortlist

Visitors to the exhibition will see the power of Baya’s joyful and vibrant paintings along with the elegance of his clay sculptures.

“Baya prefers turquoise blue, Indian pink, emerald and deep purple. She paints with incomparable delicacy the world of childhood and motherhood, expressing her fascination with the memory of her mother,” said Lemand. She “drew first with pencil, then she put the color. She started with women and then moved on to other elements, leaving blank spaces in her early work, before giving in to the ‘horror of emptiness’ of the Arab-Muslim aesthetic and filling all the empty spaces in her compositions with motifs. she. ”

In her paintings there is harmony between women and all living beings: “Each one has its own language, which all the actors on stage understand,” Lemand observed.

Far from the naive image that some have of her work, Baya appears here as an empress of a lush kingdom where young women could freely put their dreams on paper. As Breton wrote, Baya was the “Queen of Happy Arabia.”

Leave a Comment