I Was Born in Oran

A message is encapsulated in this work and its title, a message that escapes me and that I try to grasp. Don’t ask me to explain the “narrative” of this painting, because it is by observing it closely, very closely, looking from far, far away, then closing my eyes so as to remember it and re-imagine it that you may apprehend it through these sensory experiences, which retrace its inner discourse.

I was born in Oran, on the edge of land and sea, where the Mediterranean and the sky meet on the horizon, where navy blue meets azure, where blues don’t operate in a smooth continuum but with asperities, where the frothy roughness of the waves battles the swirling volume of the clouds. I was born on the earth’s edge, where crag, bluff, cliff act as symbols of that rock to which I cling, <em>”the rock I grasp and where my soul was born”</em>. Who is this “I” who was born? How did this beginning of the world for this “I” suddenly appear?

A cry that resounded like an explosion of all the senses, ushered this “I” into a space with dimensions on another scale. It left the bilateral and enclosed maternal microcosm to enter a multi-relational and open space , with infinite possibilities of paths, roads, crossings, bridges, links to be created by way of overlays, juxtapositions, bridges yet to be traced, chronicled, to invented ..

It’s by going back to Oran, literally and figuratively, that I am reborn, each time different and each time questioning the notion of identity. What is identity? Is it the pretext (pre-text) to go to the source of one or various beginnings, and is this place of beginning not a point, but a series of points which together form lines, links, bridges that I mentally build as a profession of faith, in the name of a faith in the (re)birth of a 21st century Humanism. A Humanism to create, build, shape, an ideal for the here and now … An here and now where there would be no more Hell on Earth, but luminescence, light-essence, or light-birth …

If a painting could talk…

Text by Hélène Cohen, translated by Patrick Altes