Mahjoub Ben Bella, painter of music, musician of painting

Le Monde France
The painter Mahjoub Ben Bella died a year ago, and, after Angoulême, the MUba in Tourcoing, located very close to his studio, is devoting an exhibition to him (until February 21) under the sign of gesture and movement, rhythm and music, with about forty works. If there is a painter whose work can indeed be approached in musical terms, it is Ben Bella. And first because many of his paintings are directly inspired by music: their titles are (above) Silence (Tribute to John Cage), or (below) Tributes to Renaud Gagneux, or Firebird (Tribute to Igor Stravinsky).
Then because a monumental work, Signatures, was composed by the painter, live if I dare say, during a performance of the Ballets du Nord in 1993 to the music of Pacific 231 by Arthur Honegger, music inspired by the rhythm of a steam locomotive: a giant tracing paper, 14m long and 2.5m high, was at the back of the stage, And the artist, on scaffolding behind the paper, painted, almost in a trance, during the show. The shapes and colors appeared by transparency, each color corresponding to an instrument and the shapes reflecting the rhythm of the music. Hardly if we saw Ben Bella in transparency, while he jumped from side to side, and painted these colorful and vigorous rhythms on paper.
October 22, 2021
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