The Power Plant

Solastalgia: Archaeologies of Loss

Abdelkader Benchamma

Ongoing Exhibition

Oct 13 2023 – Mar 24 2024

Abdelkader Benchamma, Solastalgia: Archaeologies of Loss. Installation view: The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, Toronto, 2023. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.

Abdelkader Benchamma, Solastalgia: Archaeologies of Loss. Installation view: The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, Toronto, 2023. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.


ART PARTNERS

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GOVERNMENT PARTNERS

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CURATOR

Noor Alé, Associate Curator

Envisioned as a geological epic of our universe, Solastalgia: Archaeologies of Loss, by French artist Abdelkader Benchamma, conjures enigmatic worlds and elemental forces at the precipice of transformation, evoking a yearning for worlds yet to be. Like an archaeologist, Benchamma unearths universal symbols from mythologies, superstitions, beliefs, and natural phenomena. In doing so, he creates an elusive topography that centres on our interconnectedness with the natural world, both revealed and concealed.

Gestural and lyrical, as well as dense and detailed, Benchamma’s predominantly monochrome murals, drawings, and installations are abstractions of tectonic movements and gravitational forces that harness the dynamism of the universe. Indebted to the language of physics, his line-work evokes the arrow of time, marking a fateful trajectory of perpetual motion. Imbued with studies of natural philosophy, geology, astronomy, alchemy, art history, and existential literature, his works reflect an encyclopedic repertoire of interests.

Benchamma deploys an organic and intuitive methodology in creating his large drawings and murals. He works without predetermined sketches by dividing his surfaces in smaller areas as he builds the compositions. As he works across the paper or the walls, what began as a fragmented landscape becomes an interwoven topography. The drawings are charged with a sense of vitality, surging with energy. The limbs of trees stretch outwards, the veins of marbled rocks pulsate, and waterfalls roll against the flesh of the earth. At times, these images of natural wonders extend beyond the frame and pour onto the walls, transforming the space into an otherworldly realm, both sublime and illusive.

Together, these works expand our perception and invite us to look inwards and retrieve memories of landscapes that would otherwise be overlooked or lost. An architect of unruly universes and an archaeologist of dormant beliefs, Benchamma unravels the relationships between humanity and the cosmos, both of which are equally endowed with the generative powers of creation, change, and destruction. The title of the exhibition, Solastalgia, invites us to contemplate, with an elegiac sense of urgency, our disappearing natural world.

Solastalgia: Archaeologies of Loss is Benchamma’s first major solo exhibition in Canada, and the most comprehensive to date in North America, featuring existing and newly created works, as well as an immersive, site-specific mural for The Power Plant’s Fleck Clerestory Commissioning Program, titled as above, so below, 2023.

Abdelkader Benchamma, as above, so below, 2023. India ink, acrylic, and charcoal. Commissioned by The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, 2023. Courtesy the artist and TEMPLON, Paris — Brussels — New York. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.

Abdelkader Benchamma, as above, so below, 2023. India ink, acrylic, and charcoal. Commissioned by The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, 2023. Courtesy the artist and TEMPLON, Paris — Brussels — New York. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.

FLECK CLERESTORY COMMISSION
as above, so below, 2023

Embraced in light and darkness, Abdelkader Benchamma's as above, so below is an allegorical wall drawing that evokes the grandeur of geological and symbolic timescales. The mural is envisioned as a cave harbouring elemental forces, an allusive landscape of primordial memories, and a vortex that thrusts forward the currents of time. This enveloping drawing brings together a dynamic set of natural phenomena—tectonic chasms, tempestuous whirlpools, and gravitational forces—to create an enigmatic and evanescent landscape. As if emerging from an ethereal realm, lines swell, collide, and dissipate, expressing movement bound in an eternal cycle. The work’s title is borrowed from a phrase found in the Emerald Tablet, a hermetic text of ancient Arabic or Greek origins that revealed the bonds between the celestial and terrestrial spheres.

Since time immemorial, humanity has used caves as sacred sites of cosmological rituals, burial grounds, and for murals that display our earliest forms of artistic expression. They are living archives with layers of memories inscribed by human activity accumulated over time. If the absence of light is the defining feature of caves, which are home to complex forms of life, darkness can be imagined anew as a life-giving force. Benchamma’s work in the Fleck Clerestory exists in a spiritual dimension, where darkness becomes a conduit for enlightenment, creating an inner sanctuary, a chamber of latent memories, taking us back to the genesis of the cosmos.

In many ways, as above, so below is a metaphor for imagined, symbolic, or interior worlds. It exists in the nebulous borderlands of the infinite and interstitial, the visible and invisible, the known and unknown. There is no beginning, middle, or end to this expansive composition; definitive interpretations will not hold. As light streams in through the windows above, illuminating the darkness of the mural and instilling it with an air of solemnity, the gradations of Benchamma’s line-work evoke a poetic state of flux.

LIST OF WORKS

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AUDIO GUIDE

Learn more about Solastalgia: Archaeologies of Loss exhibition at The Power Plant in this Audio Guide, narrated by our Head of Curatorial Affairs, Adelina Vlas.

Abdelkader Benchamma, Solastalgia: Archaeologies of Loss. Installation view: The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, Toronto, 2023. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.

Abdelkader Benchamma, Solastalgia: Archaeologies of Loss. Installation view: The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, Toronto, 2023. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.

Abdelkader Benchamma, Solastalgia: Archaeologies of Loss. Installation view: The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, Toronto, 2023. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.

Abdelkader Benchamma, Solastalgia: Archaeologies of Loss. Installation view: The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, Toronto, 2023. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.

Abdelkader Benchamma, Solastalgia: Archaeologies of Loss. Installation view: The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, Toronto, 2023. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.

Abdelkader Benchamma, Solastalgia: Archaeologies of Loss. Installation view: The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, Toronto, 2023. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.

Abdelkader Benchamma, Solastalgia: Archaeologies of Loss. Installation view: The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, Toronto, 2023. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.

Abdelkader Benchamma, Solastalgia: Archaeologies of Loss. Installation view: The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, Toronto, 2023. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.

Abdelkader Benchamma, Solastalgia: Archaeologies of Loss. Installation view: The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, Toronto, 2023. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.

Abdelkader Benchamma, Solastalgia: Archaeologies of Loss. Installation view: The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, Toronto, 2023. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.

Abdelkader Benchamma, Solastalgia: Archaeologies of Loss. Installation view: The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, Toronto, 2023. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.

Abdelkader Benchamma, Solastalgia: Archaeologies of Loss. Installation view: The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, Toronto, 2023. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.

Abdelkader Benchamma, Untitled, 2023. Ink and pen on canvas. Courtesy the artist and TEMPLON, Paris – Brussels – New York. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.

Abdelkader Benchamma, Untitled, 2023. Ink and pen on canvas. Courtesy the artist and TEMPLON, Paris – Brussels – New York. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.

Abdelkader Benchamma, Untitled, 2023. Ink and pen on canvas. Courtesy the artist and TEMPLON, Paris – Brussels – New York. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.

Abdelkader Benchamma, Untitled, 2023. Ink and pen on canvas. Courtesy the artist and TEMPLON, Paris – Brussels – New York. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.

Abdelkader Benchamma, Untitled, 2023. Ink and pen on canvas. Courtesy the artist and TEMPLON, Paris – Brussels – New York. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.

Abdelkader Benchamma, Untitled, 2023. Ink and pen on canvas. Courtesy the artist and TEMPLON, Paris – Brussels – New York. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.

Abdelkader Benchamma, Solastalgia: Archaeologies of Loss. Installation view: The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, Toronto, 2023. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.

Abdelkader Benchamma, Solastalgia: Archaeologies of Loss. Installation view: The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, Toronto, 2023. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.

Abdelkader Benchamma, Solastalgia: Archaeologies of Loss. Installation view: The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, Toronto, 2023. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.

Abdelkader Benchamma, Solastalgia: Archaeologies of Loss. Installation view: The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, Toronto, 2023. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.

Abdelkader Benchamma, Le rayon Bleu II, 2022. Ink on printed engraving by Gustave Doré from The Bible Gallery (1880). Courtesy the artist and TEMPLON, Paris – Brussels – New York. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.

Abdelkader Benchamma, Le rayon Bleu II, 2022. Ink on printed engraving by Gustave Doré from The Bible Gallery (1880). Courtesy the artist and TEMPLON, Paris – Brussels – New York. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.

Abdelkader Benchamma, Solastalgia: Archaeologies of Loss. Installation view: The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, Toronto, 2023. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.

Abdelkader Benchamma, Solastalgia: Archaeologies of Loss. Installation view: The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, Toronto, 2023. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.

Abdelkader Benchamma, detail of Engramme - Marabout, 2019. Ink and collage on paper. Collection of the artist. Courtesy the artist and TEMPLON, Paris – Brussels – New York. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.

Abdelkader Benchamma, detail of Engramme - Marabout, 2019. Ink and collage on paper. Collection of the artist. Courtesy the artist and TEMPLON, Paris – Brussels – New York. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.

Abdelkader Benchamma, Solastalgia: Archaeologies of Loss. Installation view: The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, Toronto, 2023. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.

Abdelkader Benchamma, Solastalgia: Archaeologies of Loss. Installation view: The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, Toronto, 2023. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.

Abdelkader Benchamma, Déluge, 2023. Ink on paper. Courtesy the artist and TEMPLON, Paris – Brussels – New York. Installation view: Solastalgia: Archaeologies of Loss, The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, Toronto, 2023. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.

Abdelkader Benchamma, Déluge, 2023. Ink on paper. Courtesy the artist and TEMPLON, Paris – Brussels – New York. Installation view: Solastalgia: Archaeologies of Loss, The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, Toronto, 2023. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.

Abdelkader Benchamma, as above, so below, 2023. India ink, acrylic, and charcoal. Commissioned by The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, 2023. Courtesy the artist and TEMPLON, Paris — Brussels — New York. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.

Abdelkader Benchamma, as above, so below, 2023. India ink, acrylic, and charcoal. Commissioned by The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, 2023. Courtesy the artist and TEMPLON, Paris — Brussels — New York. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.

Abdelkader Benchamma, as above, so below, 2023. India ink, acrylic, and charcoal. Commissioned by The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, 2023. Courtesy the artist and TEMPLON, Paris — Brussels — New York. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.

Abdelkader Benchamma, as above, so below, 2023. India ink, acrylic, and charcoal. Commissioned by The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, 2023. Courtesy the artist and TEMPLON, Paris — Brussels — New York. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.

About the Artist


Abdelkader Benchamma

Born in 1975 in Mazamet (France), Abdelkader Benchamma lives and works in Paris and Montpellier. Benchamma chooses to work in a sole medium: drawings.

Abdelkader Benchamma working on a special commission at The Power Plant Contempoary Art Gallery, Toronto, 2023. Photo by Hyerim Han.