sami benhadj djilali

Sami Benhadj Djilali makes works that are remarkable for their formal simplicity, with an undeniable connection to the tradition of minimalism. At the same time, they communicate a high level of psychological intensity, primarily articulated through the use of glue and paint. These pliable materials are used in a way that highlights the contrast between their tactility and the rigid rectilinear forms of the works’ wooden supports. Lumped together in loose and blobby shapes; pulled apart and left to dry so they form thin, bubbly films; squeezed and sandwiched between big structures; hidden behind the front surface of the work so the viewer has to try to find them – these material intrusions add feeling and a certain kind of sensuality into the formal perfection and distance of the otherwise precise, reductive language.

Referencing languages of design and every day material, they project an enjoyment in experimentation and discovery. Their consistency and quantity reveal a serious and ongoing engagement. Reading at times like perversions of Ikea furniture, they incite in the viewer the desire to pull apart the everyday, generic, mass-produced objects that surround us, to investigate what falls between the cracks, and to understand how materials produce interpretations without us intervening with them.

In the clarity of Benhadj Djilali’s artistic vocabulary, the inherent properties of materials (the grain of wood, the sticky translucence of glue, the powerful visual field created by a single colour of standard acrylic paint) are highlighted and displayed with great acuity. As with all works operating on a minimalist register, there is the contradictory desire to communicate and to say nothing. All art is open to interpretation, and with works such as Benhadj Djilali’s, the question of how to interpret the work becomes central, highlighting that we cannot perceive art without speculating about the intentions of the author.


Tom Saunders