Anne Laure Djaballah (here is her website) is a contemporary artist living and working in Montreal, Canada. Much of her work might be described vaguely as ‘abstract painting,’ although she also produces interesting box-and-wire installations and her paintings do not fit easily within the categories of ‘abstract’ or ‘non-representational.’ On the surface of things, her work appears indebted to such well-known ‘abstract expressionist’ painters as Willem de Kooning, Arshile Gorky, and Mark Rothko. But the connection, I think, is surface deep, and by spending a little time with Djaballah’s work one may begin to discern the differences.
Djaballah’s paintings are a complex and organic accumulation of layerings. They are, like the urban environment she says inspires them, an architectural building up of shape, color, line and tone. Many of her paintings have an ‘urban feel’ to them: they are reminiscent of cityscapes, smoggy skies and a bustle of activity. Others appear to be more like interiors and are suggestive of a space within the paintings. I think of nearly all her paintings as ‘spacial transformations’: images that are loosely based on ‘real’ spaces/places but that are transformed through Djaballah’s imaginative engagement with them.
Her paintings are worth taking the time to look at carefully. The more one stares, the more one is rewarded. They are filled with a remarkable amount of detail, and they have a surprising way of moving seamlessly from flat surface to narrow ‘portal-like’ places of depth. The colors also are very economically chosen. Her work tends to be dominated by grey-tones, but in just the right places one will find an exuberant splash of color. Careful consideration of her paintings also reveal similar elements, such as lines and boxes (resonant of her box-and-wire installations), that begin to emerge as separate elements within the paintings (against largely amorphous background), and demand to be interpreted in a more representational way.
Overall, I think that Djaballah’s work asks us to look again at our cityscapes, buildings, and spaces to consider the complex connections, histories and layers that shape our environment. She even titled a series of paintings ‘Rebuilding’ and makes the following comment about them:
Scenes of buildings, mostly houses, have prompted this series: homes that have been destroyed by fires, hurricanes, flooding, even roofs caving in under the snow, and houses under construction. I used these images as platforms from which to explore the process of rebuilding after the loss of a home, be it a physical one or a metaphorical one.
I think that this statement aptly describes much of Djaballah’s work. She reminds us that her paintings, like many of the places we live, are a series of physical rebuildings, and that physical rebuildings are accompanied and woven into our own psychological and spiritual rebuildings. Djaballah’s paintings are the place where the various kinds of rebuildings we attempt in our lives meet and intermingle in a wonderfully imaginative way.