Abdelkader Benchamma, the physicality of drawing

Abdelkader is running full steam ahead this autumn. Invited by Evelyne and Jacques Deret, founders of Art [ ] Collector, the artist is currently exhibiting a series of works on paper entitled “Simulacre” at Studio, Patio Opéra through October 3.

Success seems to be following Benchamma everywhere this year, in March he became the 5th laureate of the Prix Drawing Now and in April was invited to New York’s Drawing Center to realize The Wall Drawing Commission. Furthermore he is one of the finalists for the Prix Meurice which will be awarded on October 12. At Patio, where his Simulacre presentation features both recent works and pieces borrowed from various private collections, H A P P E N I N G took a tour in the company of the artist.

Abdelkader Benchamma, Representation of Dark Matter (2015) 
© Abdelkader Benchamma. Courtesy Drawing Center New York 

The most remarkable element of Benchamma’s work is his confrontational approach to drawing. With paper fixed to the wall the artist works standing up, the works created by the movement of his entire body. “I try to think in the broadest of terms about drawing,” says Benchamma, “This is what allows me not to be trapped in my drawing, working opposite the wall allows me to create a physical dialogue. I am more interested by the physicality of drawing even if there are parts of my work that are very technically detailed. Drawing as an artwork has a presence, like a physical entity which can go beyond what I call story-telling drawing. It is in this optic that I branch out into other mediums, sculpture, writing, installation.”

Simulacre. Collection Evelyne Deret


Benchamma’s work also shines through the freedom of interpretation given to the spectator. His abstract compositions conjure images of marble interiors of cathedrals, just as much as Rorschach tests or cross-sections of precious stones. “It is a series inspired by marble from churches, notably the Sainte-Sophie Basilique where the shapes of the marble are almost figurative. Disturbing forms can hide within these marble minerals and so I draw with a pencil in each hand in order to create a symmetry that, whilst not perfect, has a human touch. The rest of the work is completed with only one hand, in felt pen, ink, paint or sometimes metal. The Rorschach element serves to provoke a human psychological response, given the hallucinogenic nature of the marble patterns. I think that marble was chosen for churches to excite the imagination.”

The imagination is a key theme to this series summoning Gustave Doré and his illustration for Dante’sDivine Comedy. Benchamma bought a 1950s edition of the book, removing all of the etchings and retracing them with ink. Immersing himself in this illustrator’s universe in no way took away from his personal style. “It is a sort of misappropriation, as if I were to update all of these stories. The Divine Comedy, its lost paradise, myriads of angels, celestial creatures... all of that is considered decorative, the angels do not really fly, there are seats and curtains and props and constructions...”

Art [ ]Collector
Abdelkader Benchamma, Simulacre
Studio du PATIO-Art Opéra
Until October 3

Portrait of the artist © Toma Dutter