Virginie Benzaquen
Nationality :
French
Age :
52 y.o.
Residing :
France
Virginie Benzaquen
Painting
Artist’s prices ranging from
1 900 € to 18 000 €
Followers Art Traffikers
0

Painting came to me. My canvases are the only witnesses to who I am.

Virginie Benzaquen

Introducing Virginie Benzaquen

If you are accustomed to our selection of artists and our approach in regards to them, you'll know that one of our criteria, and surely the most important, is their sincerity, in the sense that they don't merely create artworks just to create them and sell them, but rather because it's their vital means of expression, entwined with their personality, their Being, their Life. The work is not an end in itself, but a means, their medium. Hence, it isn’t surprising that our artists always begin their recollection with the words "it goes back to my childhood".

 

Virginie Benzaquen is one of those artists, more so than most actually. For Virginie, painting is an integral part (in every sense of the word) of her creative process. You'll shortly understand what I mean....

 

"It goes back to Casablanca, my place of birth and where I grew up as a child, then into a lonely adolescence. I began drawing very early on. Different ambiances, living rooms, with often those old blue doors which characterize Morocco so well, which fascinated me...  

When I arrived in France at the age of 17, I discovered abstraction that characterizes my work today. But drawing has always been present, for as long as I can remember. Like a dear friend, a confidant, present especially at night, so are my canvases because I tell them everything. And, thourghout the years, they have been, til this present day, my secret garden, my diary."

Virginie Benzaquen's diary, as she explains it to me, is both literal and figurative, for before she begins to paint on a canvas, Virginie Benzaquen first covers it with words... which she’ll then obscure completely with paint... "Even as a child, before painting, I'd write a scenario that the drawing or painting would then set into scene... And even then, my rule was to make the text disappear, throwing away the draft. This became and has remained my ritual... I now write directly on the canvas with a felt-tip pen, until there's no more room".What does she write? Only she knows, because it's intimate…Her encounters, her emotions, her life, her "bullshit" as she calls it, her prayers, her anger, her insults. She tells her story, opens up, bares her soul and her personality. "It takes me hours, with music and a glass of wine. My secrets cover my canvases.”

Then comes the painting phase... Virginie first covers everything, then creates what will be the end result, an echoing to the sentiments she wishes to hide, of which only Virginie knows and to which she has the "codes”.  What the onlooker will see is abstract art, but for Virginie Benzaquen, it's the figuration of what her texts are about, colors and lines that are guided by her emotions.

Another peculiarity is no paintbrushes are used... Everything is done by hand, with a few exceptions such as strips of scotch tape for lines she wants straight, or newspaper she crumples and rubs to spread and manipulate the thickness and colors of the paint; or skewer sticks, which she also uses to make scratches in the paint or to rewrite words in the text - words that are important to her, even if she makes them disappear again, words only she knows are there. "I hate brushes, the idea of brushes, because they separate me from the canvas. I want proximity, to feel the contact.... I only paint with my hands... I love it", she confides.

 

As for her color palette, black is predominant... Working with black is an extreme pleasure, which also stems from her childhood, when she used to isolate herself in the house cellar in order to explore its many possibilities in her sketch book. Today, it is rather for the sake of texture and material that Virginie Benzaquen explores black. It's hardly surprising that Virginie is an unconditional fan of Soulages... But with all the humility that characterizes her: "I'm rather shy with black. If I wasn’t as respectful as I am humbled by Soulages' work, I'd use black more, or sometimes even only black... it's joyful, luminous, emotionally intense. Looking at a Soulages painting moves me enormously, but it also triggers a feeling of familiarity, as I see my gestures in his, as I imagine him in his studio. I was very lucky to have met him... It was moment of pure magic". It's not surprising either that her other artistic reference is Hartung, whose work I urge you to discover if you're not already familiar with it. Then, you'll understand Virginie's pronounced taste for curves, straight lines, those geometric elements, as well as her choice of blue, red, yellow... "When I began painting, I was untainted by the work of Soulages or Hartung, whose works I discovered much later and to which I totally relate to."

Her career? As with her artworks : covertness. For a very long time, Virginie Benzaquen's artworks were kept secret, except for those closest to her. It wasn't until the age of 30 that she befriended a gallery owner, Pierre Georgio Corchia, to whom she finally revealed that she painted herself, and to whom she opened the doors of her studio. Fascinated by the artist and her work, he concluded an exclusive agreement with her. Exhibitions soon followed, in France and Italy, which all met great success... Just as quickly she caught the eyes of discerning collectors, including one who would leave a lasting impression on Virginie: Dominique Imbert, founder of FOCUS fireplaces. Up until his death, he kept a fervent passion for Virginie's work. "I think he wrote one of the most beautiful texts regarding my work - (see below) - I often think of him, and often the words that I write on my canvases are letters that I write to him, and I confide in him". But when Pierre Georgio Corchia died, the collaboration came to a halt and Virginie was approached by other galleries. And, more and more collectors began encouraging her. "One of them even made a movie about my work that was shown at the Gaumont Multiplexe Theater in Montpellier, and it was a real success". But she's not looking for notoriety nor to spread herself too thin... and even less to paint for "too many" galleries... Like her works, which she imbues with emotions and intimate secrets, Virginie's status as a confidential artist suits her just fine.

 

Apart from her talent, it's also one of the reasons why we're so proud and happy to present her to you and to represent her, to have gained her trust. Her paintings pull us in, they inspire and penetrate us... But I'll let you discover and appreciate her artworks yourselves.

Below, are Dominique Imbert's words about Virginie Benzaquen's artworks and what they sparked in him. 

Texte by Dominique Imbert

"Painting is howling in silence" says the rebellious Virginie Benzaquen.

Transforming her hands into brushes and dancing with darkness, Virginie, as if possessed by paint, is constantly in search of the ultimacy. Her way of painting is an incessant, chaotic, conquering breath which is vital to her.

Her gaze beats and brutally sweeps through space, her strains jostle and clash, creating an improbable, jubilant harmony.

Surprisingly, Virginie Benzaquen places words, personal phrases, prayers or insults on her canvases before she starts painting. She then buries them, transforming them into undetectable secrets, with the paint which she slaps onto them with her hands, arms…without a paintbrush.

And the layers follow one another, as she scrapes, lashes and ripples, one after the other, jostling, scolding and colliding without care.

Then the black appears, bountiful like tar on tar, matter on matter, jagged on jagged, until it settles in almost completely and leaving little room for non-black. The black is kneaded by hand and nourished by light, light which doesn’t overpower but rather guides the black.

No, this is not morose, bitter or taciturn black; it is a black that vibrates, that lives; a black which is synonym of challenge, insubordination and rebellion, as Virginie B. herself is.

Between the lines she gives us to read, imprisoned blue-greens, ambers, tans and patinated bronzes emerge, making us understand that, with her blue eyes, she in no way casts a pessimistic glare on life.

"I'm shackled by the memory of loved ones who are no more! They're at my fingertips..." she says.

This is how she sets the tone of her canvases : recreating life, intensifying and exalting it.

Dominique Imbert

THE ARTISTS SHE ADMIRES : 

Hans HARTUNG

Joan MIRO Pierre SOULAGES

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