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La gardienne de la parole

©François Lauginie

La gardienne de la parole, 1984

Jean-Michel Alberola
  • Artist (1953)

Since the early 1980s, the French painter Jean-Michel Alberola, who was born in Saïda (Algeria) in 1953,  has been developing a body of work which refers to elements coming, in some cases, from the field of art (literary, mythological and societal references and quotations) and, in others, making allusion to his own life. His pictures borrow most of their subjects from mythology and the Bible (he has painted a lot of crucifixions). Suzanne and the Elders and Diana and Actaeon incarnate the thinking worked out by the artist on matters pictorial, the powers of the image, and the idea of the “end of painting”: Actaeon is turned into a stag for having dared to look at Diana bathing; the elders spy on Suzanne with a peeping Tom’s eye. Alberola recognizes himself in the figure of Actaeon and signs his canvases with these words: “Actaeon pixit, Actaeon fecit”. Another theme, that of Africa, is chosen by the artist for its relationship to modernity—the role of African art in the 20th century avant-gardes—and for the more private relationship that the artist has with the continent where he was born. The graphic motifs inspired by popular fabrics and statues, as we find them in The Guardian of the Word, condense the legacy of the Conceptual Art of the 1970s and the influence of non-western cultures. Be it through painting or through other forms of  expression like installation, performance, photography, film, text, or  lithography, Alberola’s work, which was associated in the 1980s with Free Figuration, questions the work of art, its history, and its meaning. His work is regularly exhibited in European galleries and art centres.

Nadine Labedade