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kamel mennour opens an exhibition of paintings by Dhewadi Hadjab
Exhibition view « Dhewadi Hadjab, Acte I : Vaciller », kamel mennour (6 rue du Pont de Lodi, Paris 6), 2022 © Dhewadi Hadjab. Photo. Archives kamel mennour. Courtesy the artist and kamel mennour, Paris.



PARIS.- ‘For me, dance has always been a site of curiosity. But what interests me in dance is the moment of failure, the instant in which the pose comes undone, when the posture breaks down, when the body trembles as it searches for the right gesture. I find this the sincerest movement,’ says Dhewadi Hadjab, whose imagination has been fed by videos including those of Pina Bausch, whom he particularly likes. His interest in the choreographed body first came out of a friendship he had with a dancer in Algeria. Since then, it has become an obsession. To the point that every painting is the occasion to think about the lines of the next body—during the long hours he spends on a canvas, Dhewadi Hadjab sometimes moves off to rapidly sketch new poses and figures in preparatory sketchbooks. These intuitive postures then become the starting point for a series of long photographic sessions in which Hadjab patiently guides his model, adjusting the light and shadow as it falls. Even though they are often professional dancers, his models can’t hold the uncomfortable architecture of their pose for more than a few seconds. The sessions are trying, with the body brought to the limit of its sense of balance and pain. From among the many photos taken in the process, Hadjab extracts each tiny detail that he will then work into his paintings: a particular shimmer of satin, an imperceptible tension in a muscle beneath the skin, the angle of a finger, the stirring limit of a shadow… Hadjab adds together hundreds and hundreds of separate instants in order to fix a single moment of silence.

Dhewadi Hadjab’s paintings should be thought of as chapters in a story made of hours rather than words. He embraces the aspect of theatrical construction that belongs to them. With his brush in hand, he is a choreographer and stage director, the different spaces he imagines like sets inhabited by bodies in one suspended, sublime moment. The influence of Renaissance and Romantic painting is everywhere in his work. He serenely summons forth the light of a Caravaggio or the clarity of David’s draped figures. When he depicts a parquetry floor—an element that often undergirds the scene and structures the painting—he emphasises its repetitive pattern, which punctuates the painting like a rhythm, marking the painting with a tempo, something that again is necessary for dancers. The works are always ‘untitled’. Dhewadi feels that what he shows says enough. The rest is up to us. Like the strange feeling, on seeing a new triptych showing only the bottom of a pair of legs in white socks, of a meeting between Francis Bacon and La Mort de Marat (Jacques-Louis David, 1793).

Here, the body hides. As single as ever, it has gone over to the other side, hidden from our gaze. We have no idea if it’s taunting us, whether it’s playing or dying. The demigod Dhewadi refrains from imposing an interpretation on the image. But he describes this triptych as a moment in which the sea swells, then draws off from the beach. Another movement from dance…

A graduate of the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, but first trained at the École des Beaux-Arts in Algiers, he has doubtless kept within him the brown earth and the sparse, chiseled vegetation of his childhood. But there is no landscape to be found in his paintings, which rather try to cut us off from the world, from time, leading us astray through the meandering patterns of a peeling sheet of wallpaper or a richly detailed carpet. In his paintings, everything is built on contrast. Colours fall alongside one another like rays of light. Shadows are almost never closed, but rather outline the volumes in space and create astonishing reality effects. The bodies pay no attention to us; in the theatrical space they inhabit they never look at us but seem to thoroughly live out the question they address to themselves and to us: how to communicate ecstasy, impossible love? How to communicate a trance, how to communicate the moment when the body stops being controlled and is given over to itself, how to communicate when the fiction of painting turns an instant into eternity?

Born in 1992 in M’Sila (Algeria), DHEWADI HADJAB lives and works in Paris. Graduated from the École Supérieure des Beaux-Arts d’Alger, the École Nationale Supérieure d’Art de Bourges and the BeauxArts de Paris, he was awarded several intenational prizes such as the Prix des Amis des Beaux-Arts « Prix du portrait Bertrand de Demandolx Dedons » in 2020. In 2021, he was the laureate of the Rubis Mécénat production grant and was invited to present a solo exhibition at the Église Saint-Eustache in Paris. His work has been shown in group exhibitions at FRAC Franche-Comté, Besançon (France), at POUSH Manifesto, Clichy (France) and at the Beaux-Arts de Paris.

Surprising and disconcerting, the paintings of Dhewadi Hadjab are of intriguing beauty. Photography and pictorial practice are both at the center of his work. All of the artist’s canvases begin with photographs of models that he places in positions of extreme discomfort, constraint, in danger. It is then, in the extremely meticulous execution of the painted surface and in the development of a powerful realism that he accentuates the smallest details of the bodies and gives them a strong sculptural intensity.

These vibrant, intense and unique paintings, between gravity and grace, are an invitation to transcend the sensitive and the fragility of uncertainty

— Gaël Charbau










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