Baya refused to associate herself with mainstream Western art signifiers, and therefore rejected all forms of adherence to any art movement association. Neither surrealism nor naive art were able to contain her, she wanted to stand alone – untouched by exogenous artistic categorization. Unshackled and free, her painting brings with it the colour and voracity of a life well lived.
The visual imprint of Matisse can be seen in the contours of her figures, and the influence of Picasso is unmistakeable. It was in the time she spent in France that Baya became acquainted with European visual art. The purity of colour, line and form embraced by Neo-plasticism - while not as structured, is softened in Baya’s works. Perhaps most importantly, it was a 1947 exhibition in Paris where she captured the attention of Matisse and in particular Pablo Picasso, whom she worked with for several months. The reciprocity of this artistic relationship left a huge imprint on both artists. Picasso nurtured Baya’s aesthetic – particularly her use of colour and line, while Baya’s cultural vitality served as creative lifeblood for Picasso. It was after this period that he went on to paint a collection called ‘Algeria’s Women’. Baya’s works also left their mark on authorAndré Breton, who featured her in the catalogue of “Derrière le Miroir” exposition held in Paris in 1947.
The fairy tales and imagination of her childhood propelled her creative spirits which are so apparent in the shapes and colours that are at the essence of all of her works. It is most notably her early 1940’s clay sculptures that created the contour of her most acclaimed two dimensional body of work. The influence of these clay animal and human figures can be seen not only in the simplicity of form, but in the visceral quality they lend her paintings. Flowers, fish, butterflies and birds – come together in a melodious composition. The lyrical and melodious quality of many of her works can be attributed to her musician husband, Andalusian composer Mahieddine Mahfoudh, whose instruments appear frequently in many of her paintings.
Baya is an artist without pretence. Her works are true to her life and while she has borrowed from varied experiences and artistic styles, she has developed a unique aesthetic – the pursuit of light with colourful lightness.
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