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Ghouar: a Polysemous Oeuvre

As Ghouar gradually moved towards abstract painting, he went through a semi-figurative ethnological colouring phase, where he represented Chaoui and Tuareg people. In his work on male and female figures, Ghouar often alludes to Issiakhem's work. Like Issiakhem, the author of 'The Widow', Ghouar  also uses vernacular motifs, not as central references of the work but rather as a cultural indication which allows the identification of the space to which the painting belongs, and hence geographically situates it as North African. This painting technique would quickly evolve into a semi-figurative one, incorporating Berber motifs and Tifinagh scripts. Later on, free forms supplemented by Berber motifs would dominate Ghouar's work. However, the artist's dissatisfaction seems fuelled by an equally strong concern desire to find his own style and his own subject, off the beaten track of Algerian art and its icons and symbols. He thus abandons geometric patterns as well as cultural and identity references and embraces free forms that spring into space in the form of ropes, pipes and knots.
Long influenced by the hegemonic imprint of symbolism Ghouar decided to let go of not only everything that does not belong to him , but to a whole  community. Although he remained loyal to a few key motifs essential to the art of his ancestors, symbolism is, however, no longer the window dressing of his work. Indeed, Ghouar now only uses Berber symbolism in cases of absolute necessity. The Arabic letters, Tifinagh script, triangles, diamonds and magic squares of Berber cosmogony are therefore still present in his work, but integrated with a wider visual language—without which they would no longer make sense in the painting. Using them in this way does not permit giving them a nature and texture, but they can serve as machinery and engines, or as bones, roots and branches. In many of Ghouar's paintings, it is still possible to decipher deconstructed and distorted Arabic letters, or rather to identify the cursive pace of Arabic calligraphy (Rouki Nouskhi), whose movements are very close to nature and its rhythms. It is this movement emanating from Arabic calligraphy that gives the painting a lyrical character that reflects powerful tensions, related to some important event that the artist experienced. However, the painting is not overly dramatic and its lyricism is still contained, mainly by warm and soft colours. Black is often used as background for those forms that protrude in different directions, like roots or tubes and pipes in a deserted town. Ghouar's style is currently gaining in originality of identity and theme; with time it will more clearly define its objective which is overshadowed, for now, by formal considerations.
As a demanding painter who is confident in his mastery of technique, Ghouar prefers to immerse himself in modern art rather than to take after the local, repetition-based trend, one that has its limits caused by the blinding domination of cultural articulation and politics. Mindful that national cultural elements can only be advantageous if expressed in a personal language, Ghouar does not force the highlighting of those elements in his works. Indeed, relying solely on the local cultural repertoire without revisiting it -or “restyling it”, to use Jacques Berque’s words about the Algerian pioneer painter Mohamed Khadda- does not go far. Ghouar does not seek to be part of the temporary, easy and hegemonic movement of what is called contemporary art.

Ali El Hadj Tahar
Art Critic

Ghouar was born in 1967 in Guelma, Algeria. After studying arts at the Fine Arts School of Constantine, he obtains a degree in painting and a national artistic teaching certificate. He taught in Algeria for sixteen years. In 2006 he moved to Ardèche, France, where he became an art therapy practitioner while pursuing his personal work to which he entirely dedicates hismself since 2012.