Moroccan Artist Tahar Ben Jelloun Exhibits In Dubai

Farah Abu-Zaid, Morocco, Tahar Ben Jelloun, Contemporary Art
Untitled. Tahar Ben Jelloun. 2017. Oil on canvas.
One of France’s most celebrated writers and artists is showcasing in the Middle East for the first time at La Galerie Nationale in Alserkal Avenue

Famed Moroccan artist-writer and Goncourt prizewinner Tahar Ben Jelloun is currently showcasing his exhibition Cultural Crossroads at the Dubai-based La Galerie Nationale. Curated by Guillaume Cuiry, the show displays more than 20 works on canvas, all expressions of joy and hope in bright, engaging colours with recurring imagery of flowers, butterflies and birds. "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," said Cuiry. "We hope that Ben Jelloun’s work will appeal to serious investors and art enthusiasts alike."

Tahar Ben Jelloun

Untitled. Tahar Ben Jelloun. 2017. Oil on canvas.

Known for his novels such as The Sand Child and The Sacred Night, Ben Jelloun’s journey into visual self-expression started in 2010 when he filled a friend's drawings with bursting colours. He painted his first piece in 2013, embracing art with the same fervour that he writes with. “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," Ben Jelloun shared. Since then, he has been exhibiting in galleries around the world in cultural hubs such as Rome, Turin, Palermo, Marrakech, Tangier and the well-known Arab World Institute in Paris in 2017.

Tahar Ben Jelloun

Untitled. Tahar Ben Jelloun. 2017. Oil on canvas.

Ben Jelloun's work feature simple forms and expressive brushstrokes, but the viewer can notice symbols reminiscent of Arabic script and illustrations on ancient walls with clear references to the hybrid nature of Arab self-indentity and cultural representation. The desert scenes portray the stillness and calm of Morocco’s southern sands, juxtaposed with spaces such as the long-deserted Casbah ruins. Similar to Ben Jelloun’s written works, the wondrous swirls of colour and scribbles in his artworks convey his urge to explore the human condition and man’s relation with his surroundings. "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 a wolf, worse than a hyena," said Ben Jelloun.

Tahar Ben Jelloun

Untitled. Tahar Ben Jelloun. 2017. Oil on canvas.

"My paintings are certainly born, sparked or even imposed upon by those solar beings. The paintings are a reminder of my homeland, the back country of my imaginary world brewed from my travels, encounters and amazements," he explained. "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."


The show will run till 15 September at La Galerie Nationale in Dubai. For more information visit Galerie-nationale.com


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Farah Abu-Zaid, Morocco, Tahar Ben Jelloun, Contemporary Art
Untitled. Tahar Ben Jelloun. 2017. Oil on canvas.