I am taken in by the intimate and ornate paintings of women by Algerian artist Faiza Maghni. The images are stunning, feminine, beautiful. Yet a complexity has me lingering and pondering over the artistic style, the symbolic meanings that are imperceptible to me without further insights about the artist and her intentions. To share what I learned I borrow excerpts from an interview (July 2012) with the artist, conducted by Deanna Elaine Piowaty, Managing Editor or Combustus Online Magazine:
Deanna Elaine Piowaty:Your sources of inspiration include Persian miniatures, Arabic calligraphy, tribal art and contemporary painting. This is quite an eclectic mix! How did all this come together for you?
Faiza Maghni: I was born in Oran, Algeria, and now live in Paris. This eclecticism influences my aesthetics, especially the culture and traditions of my hometown, a rich Mediterranean city reflecting the influences of the many civilizations that have occupied it: Spanish, Jewish, Arab, Andalusian, Ottoman and French. All this has left its mark, whether in architecture, music or the lifestyle in general. In my work I seek to convey a certain kind of romanticism inspired by Arabic and Persian poetry, taking my inspiration from the costumes and hairstyles of the miniatures of the past which I find full of subtlety and restraint. I’m also drawn to the symbolic meanings found in tribal jewelry and have reinvented this style in my paintings, such as the giraffe-collared women in Burma and Africa that are simultaneously a symbol of beauty and a forced cruelty.
Deanna Elaine Piowaty: Costume plays an important role in your portraits. Please tell me more about that.
Faiza Maghni: Costume is the ornament. In my paintings, the ornament expresses attitudes sometimes severe, sometimes austere, other times carefree, and with still others there is a certain majesty. Often I create an exaggeration to express my own intensity. Sometimes costume can be an impressive armor and other times a kind of light and screen that hides or reveals.
Faiza Maghni: I look for the cracks, brittleness in her appearance or demeanor. I am very sensitive to people.
Deanna Elaine Piowaty: When you are painting a particular portrait, do you start to invent a personality to go with the image? A past, perhaps? A life history that goes with the face?
Faiza Maghni: The character and the composition are voluntarily timeless. I try to create a moment of poetry out of time, an intimate and hushed atmosphere.
I paint women-children who want to keep some of this childhood innocence as they grow up. They may aspire to some kind of ‘renaissance,” coming from a serene femininity and proud sovereign of their destiny.