As a function of historical fluctuations, the Algeria it has alternately opened to external influences and closed in on itself, preferring the tranquility of autarchy to the various upheavals of foreign currents, which the wide Mediterranean coasts have often conveyed. The contact and contrast between elements of external derivation and local traditions practically knows no respite, so that the history of Algerian art is crossed by a competitive struggle, in which, depending on the circumstances, one trend prevails over the other. The African sensibility, the Bedouin and oriental traditions that cross or follow the course of the Nile and the Sahara desert, the Western civilizations that arrive from the sea, collide with the resistance of an indigenous culture, of which the rock drawings of the Tassili size,
The thematic richness, the geometric sign, the pictorial variations are as many spies of an originality jealously preserved through the centuries and which survives in the habits and customs of the mountain populations (Chaoui and Cabili), who still use them to decorate pottery, fabrics and interior.
The relative ease with which the Algeria identified with the principles of Islam has meant that Islamic art was able to merge without much resistance with the national culture; starting from the Middle Ages a lively tradition of miniature was born in Algeria, which consolidating itself acquires a style of its own compared to the classical or Iranian manner. The prerogative of the intellectual elite, the current fades at the same time as the art of the book. In the Turkish period the arabesque found in the atéliers of the masters of the Casbah of Algiers a terrain of choice: flowering of the floral and geometric element, of the costume scenes, but above all an illustration of the conquests of Islam. The miniature becomes the official and dominant genre,
Having become the most prominent element of the local tradition, the ornamentalist current was at the same time the most suitable form of artistic sensitivity to resist the French conquest, in its commitment to fiercely preserve its originality, an expression of its religious and moral individuality. Conversely, the market economy favored by colonialism has rapidly upset the artisan tradition, of which, apart from a few isolated nuclei, bazaar exoticism becomes the dominant element. The French conquest, although it was in this at the basis of a cultural regression, gradually favored the return to elements of European art: in particular painting with the easel and iconographic representation, the beginning of a new opening of Algerian art to universal civilization. L’ the work of M. Racim (1896-1975), master of miniature, is the best example of this attempt at reconciliation between a spirit already very attentive to the data of modern culture and an ancestral tradition that has become pure convention. By engaging in easel painting, Racim demonstrates how modern art lessons are well learned at the Algiers School of Fine Arts: he refuses, however, to become an ‘imitator’ of Western art and feels the imperative duty to aesthetically reveal the pomp of Algerian civilization, ousted by the Western one. However, the application of stylistic elements typical of the miniature to plastic works (stylization of the line, flattening of the surfaces, gold dust) does not always translate into happy results. For Algeria 2013, please check physicscat.com.
The painting of the last postwar period, the revolutions and counter-revolutions that the pictorial and plastic language has known since the beginning of the century in Europe and America, have not failed to influence the work of those who are the greatest representatives of Algerian painting Contemporary. Given the historical background, the frustrated, vulnerable, finally awakened sensitivity could not fail to investigate and grasp every sense of modernity: the works of M. Temman (1915-1988), B. Chaouch-Yelles (b.1921) testify to this., Algeria ῾Alī-Khūǧa (b. 1923), M. Bū Zīd (b. 1929), M. ‘Issiakhem (1928-1985) and M. Louail (b. 1930).
The independence of the Algeria in the 1960s it allowed artists to lay the foundations of an Algerian aesthetic which, founded on the traditions of the past, feeds on present realities and opens up to universal influence and to the future. Since the beginning of the Sixties, the aspiration to this new art, to the autonomy of painting, has been expressed by Algeria Benanteur (b. 1931).
A few years later, in 1967, some ” visionary realists ” painters, as they call themselves, openly expressed their concerns in the manifesto of the Aouchem group: “the magic sign made manifest the maintenance of a popular culture… Far from a a certain gratuitousness of contemporary Western abstraction, which has forgotten the oriental and African lessons of which Romance art was impregnated, we must define the true totems and true arabesques capable of expressing the world in which we live… The sign is stronger bombs “.
Authenticity passes through the enhancement of ancestral culture. The geometric signs, the African, Berber, Arabic calligraphy, the typical color, the mythological themes, the individual and collective temperament are the forms and forces of the epoch and of all times. Best representatives of this current are C.-M. Mesli (b.1931) and D. Martinez (b.1941).
In the following decade, in the seventies, the painter M. Khadda (b.1930) publishes an essay in which he critically evaluates the contribution of the past and its essential elements in order to elaborate a new art, synthesis of the forms of the past and of the present, national and universal.
In recent years the young painting stands out for its vitality, diversity, freedom: its exponents have, as a common ambition, the fruition of contemporary art without borders and of all future universal promises. The most notable representatives of the current movement are Algeria Silem (b.1947), M. Ṣalāḥ (b.1949) and H.-M. Zubayr (b.1952).