Amel Bennys : Time is Now

20 October - 10 December 2022

Henri Matisse stated, "Creativity takes courage."


This applies perfectly to the artistic path of Amel Bennys, whose work includes paintings, sculpture, installation, sketches, unique pieces of furniture, and more.


Bennys' artistic journey began long ago, and it is the focus to which she has dedicated all her time and effort.  After graduating from the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris and receiving many awards over the course of her studies and career, she powerfully entered the world of painting and sculpture, with strength and courage, but not to looking to conquer. Rather, art is her way to open doors of discovery, while asserting control over dreams and living in truth and in the moment.


It is difficult to know with certainty the amount of effort the artist exerts to reach her goal on the surface of the painting, because of the multiple layers of different pigments, oil colors, oil sticks, acrylics, fixers and glue. Through a gradual process, the painting becomes the only presence. After traveling like a beam of light between the eye of truth and the eye of insight, there is no port of arrival. The journey is the goal, according to the Egyptian-Greek poet Cavafy. Bennys' painting arrives as the decisive moment during which full presence is embodied and the body recognizes its poise and its power over colors and lines.


In an interview with the artist a short time ago, Bennys told me that she works in the fashion of a construction worker during her multi-faceted artistic production, although painting dominates. She mentioned that during one of her artistic residencies in Tunisia during which she was interested in making wooden sculpture, she would collect discarded wood around construction sites, carrying it away on her back. One day, she met a woman who collected the same wood - but to use it as fuel for an oven by which she made a living baking bread. The woman asked Bennys what was her reason for collecting that wood.  When answered that it was to make sculpture, the woman was astonished and asked her, "Does this bring you money?" Bennys smiled.


In this new exhibition of Bennys' work, we find titles of pieces that refer to, the artist says, external and internal travels. Notice titles such as "This, Just This" or "851 Madison Avenue" or "Yes for Sure" or "Time is Now," where the last is the title of this exhibition. When asked about her choice of titles for works which are close to abstraction, although not completely devoid of pictorial references, she stated that the titles of paintings for her are like life itself, determined by her position and considered as stations of memory.


 A title of a painting from a previous exhibition was "No Answer," and perhaps this is the answer about the artist's work, where colors and different materials juxtapose freely without constraining straight geometric lines. Her sculptural installations of wood and other materials rise like skyscrapers in New York. Thus, we can see the artist's works in both painting and sculpture lie between abstraction and symbolism. But, if there is an answer to the absence of an answer, then the answer is "animation of the soul." Animation that aligns with her work from the beginning, where lines and spaces intersect as maps of mythical cities that bring back to our memory the places we have gone through in reality or in imagination. The horizon with colors or light that exceeds our expectation of knowing where it ends up.


 Even if the paintings appear to be abstract, by careful consideration and following successive layers of colors that give the surface a third dimension, we can discover the traces of the previous maps. We find ourselves participating in an archaeological excavation, reaching a state of delight close to the moment of the artist's ecstasy when the process of creation was completed. The ability to discover the secrets of the artwork and enter its orbit is the pleasure that the work of Amel Bennys gives us, as it brings back to us the memory and dream of entering through the gates of ancient cities topped by high towers, to the worlds of wonder.


As the artist Alberto Giacometti says: "The aim of art is not to re-create reality, but to create reality anew, but with the same intensity."


Nabil Naoum

Author and Art Critic