Asma M’Naouar studied painting at the École des Beaux-Arts in Tunis. She studied in Rome in 1993, earning a degree in painting at the Accademia di Belle Arti. In 1995 she trained at the Bildzwang Workshop in Lucerne, Switzerland, before returning to Tunisia the following year.
While her art could be described as lyrical abstraction, its specificity resides in its use of the colour red, playing on a wide range of tones to create world of fiery lights. With passion and dedication, she uses all the possibilities the colour has to offer to produce even more variety in the brightness and darkness of the tones. Her oil paintings juxtapose thickness and transparency in a free-form geometry filled with curved and oblong shapes. Her compositions seem to be constructed from bottom to top, as a continuous build-up accentuated by added layers of colour, which both suggest and lessen the sense of depth.
In some of her pieces (Architecture XX, 2010; Mare Nostrum, 2012), the materiality of the shapes is conveyed by subtle variations between the vibrant, luminous tones and the swathes of brick or garnet red, sometimes darkened with indigo. Whether depicting an hourglass or a shoal of fish, her figures stand out amidst a deliberately uneven undulation of incandescent lines. The contrast and complementarity between the perpendicular lines and the curves produce layers of moving structures.
In choosing to live solely from her art, A. M’Naouar risks economic instability in order to fully devote herself to painting. She regularly works several hours a day in her studio, using artificial lighting to achieve realistic colours. Her tireless research leads her to paint over canvases that she is no longer satisfied with and to experiment with various techniques and lighting. Unlike several other fellow Tunisian artists, whose practice is rooted in elements of the country’s heritage, A. M’Naouar believes in the universality of art and does not feel invested with a mission or responsibility other than artistic. Her work is now critically acclaimed. She was awarded the Critics Prize by the Giordano Bruno Foundation in 1993, second prize at the La Marsa Autumn Salon in 1994, the Golden Sail Prize at the Kuwait Biennial in 1996 and the Tunisian Ministry of Culture’s Prize for Visual Arts in 1999.
Her strength of character and creative passion have enabled her to overcome the sociocultural obstacles that could have discouraged her in her career as a woman. Her works are kept in several collections, including the Vittorio Caporrella Foundation in Rome, the Rachid-Karamé Centre in Tripoli, Lebanon, and the collections of the Tunisian Ministry of Culture.
Publication made in the framework of the Season Africa2020.
© Archives of Women Artists, Research and Exhibitions
Asma M’Naouar, Exhibition All the World’s a Mosque, Wall 2, 2015, Carved plaster and varnish, env. 300 x 400 cm, © Asma M’Naouar