Atef Maatallah

  • Biography

    Atef Maatallah was born in 1981 in Al Fahs in Tunisia, a city which is at the centre of his work. His work revisits the codes of narrative figuration through a rigorous illustration of everyday images and characters whose haunting glances evoke an air of transience. Maatallah's figurative paintings and drawings reflect a sense of longing, cultivated in part by the use of individuals from his childhood in Al Fahs. Although specific people have inspired, some of the figures are also rendered as anonymous characters that create a universal recognition in the viewer. The figures are accompanied by objects, which through their ephemeral appearance, hint at the personalities of the people or the tenuousness of their social conditions.

    Often working on the reverse of the canvas or on drawing paper, the artist achieves a purposeful grainy flatness in the backgrounds of the works. This quality is contrasted by contours of shadow and light in the subjects that affords them a stunning luminosity. Through this sensitive rendering, Maatallah illuminates the radiance of everyday people and the significance of their quotidian interactions. His works gesture towards the precarity of the social realities lived by people he encounters in his life and in his memories. The tender rendition of the characters emphasizes a universal relatability, where their visages evoke the feeling that we as viewers have each seen them somewhere before, and that we will see them again.

    A graduate of the Institut Supérieur des Beaux-Arts in Tunis, he has participated in numerous exhibitions in Tunisia and abroad since 2010. Some of the exhibitions include his work at the Institute of Cultures of Islam in the City of Paris, and in collaboration with the Collectif Zamaken at the Salon DDessin16, Paris 2016 in the space of Elmarsa Gallery which was under construction when he exhibited his work during Jaou in 2015, as part of a collective project with Tunisian artists Fakhri El Ghezal and Nidhal Chamekh, as well as part of his artist residency with Siwa Platform in Redayef. He is a founding member of the collective “Politiques” which was very active between 2012 and 2014 in both Tunis and Paris. In 2014, he participated in the Singapore Biennale organized by Singapore Art Fair and Catherine David, Curator of the exhibition and Deputy Director of the Museum of Modern Art-Center Pompidou.

    Atef Maatallah received the second prize and the first drawing prize at the Contemporary Design Fair in Paris for two consecutive years in 2015 and 2016. His works are in public and private collections in Tunisia, France, Great Britain and the Middle -Orient as Barjeel Art Foundation in Sharjah, Kamel Lazaar Foundation in Tunis and the Ministry of Culture in Tunisia. He lives and works in Tunis, and exhibits his work regularly in Tunis, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Paris, among others.


    2007 MA - Fine Art School of Nabeul, Tunisia

    2004 MA - Major in Sculpture – Institute of Fine Art School of Tunis, Tunisia

    EXHIBITIONS (Selection)

    2016 “Yesterday is tomorrow's memory: a group show of work from North Africa”, Elmarsa, Dubai

    2016 Effervescence, Institut des cultures d’Islam, Ville de Paris

    2016 “Dispositifs sensibles”, in collaboration with the Collectif Zamaken at the Salon DDessin16, Atelier Richelieu, Paris 1st Prize at the Salon DDessin16, Paris

    2015 “Under Construction”, a spatial installation accompanied by a live music performance by Sami Belatra et Khalil Lajmi, Elmarsa, Tunis

    2015 2nd prize at the Contemporary Drawing Fair DDessin, Paris

    2014 Singapore biennale curated by Catherine David, at the Singapore Art Fair

    2014 “Survivances”, collective exhibition with Fakhri El Ghezal and Nidhal Chamekh, Elmarsa, Tunis

    2014 “Politiques”, collective exhibition at Galerie Talmart, Paris

    2013 “Politiques 2”, group show with artist collective Politics including guest artists Shadi Al Zaqzouq, Matthieu Boucherit and Iba Wane, Centre national des arts vivants of Tunis

    2013 Group show with artist collective Politics including guest artists Shadi Al Zaqzouq, Matthieu Boucherit and Iba Wane, Galerie Talmart, Paris

    2013 “No man’s land”, solo show at Elmarsa, Tunis

    2012 10th Printemps des arts Fair de Tunis, Palais Abdellyah, represented by Elmarsa

    2012 Group show with artist collective Politics, Centre national des arts vivants of Tunis

    2012 “A dire d'elles”, the National Library of Tunis

    2012 “Sexy Art 3”, Galerie Aire Libre El Teatro, Tunis

    2012 Salon Maisons et Objets (Design Fair), represented by designer Philippe Xerri Rock The Kasbah, Paris

    2012 “Lokhrine”, a group show at Galerie Aire Libre El Teatro, Tunis

    2006/2009 Founder and active member of the collective El Maamel: conception and production of wall paintings and sculptures commissioned for private and public spaces COLLECTIONS

    Ministry of Culture in Tunisia

    Barjeel Art Foundation, Sharjah

    Kamel Lazaar Collection, Tunis

    And in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Jeddah, London, Paris, Tunis, etc.


    -Gulf News Arts - Shining a spotlight on North African art by Jyoti Kalsi, special to Weekend Review, August 4, 2016:

    - Connaissance des arts - Tunisie aujourd’hui à l’Institut des cultures d’Islam de Paris by Myriam Boutoulle 14.07.2016: 

    - RFI-Radio France Internationale - «Effervescence» tunisienne à l’Institut des cultures d’islam by RFI 04-07-2016: 

    - Atef Maatallah lauréat du prix L’ART EST VIVANT – Award Prize L’ART EST VIVANT (April 2016):

    - Marion Zilio - Dispositifs sensibles, in collaboration with the Collectif Zamaken at the Salon DDessin16, Atelier Richelieu, Paris:

    - Hi-Fructose - The New Contemporary Art Magazine: Atef Maatallah’s Personality-Driven Portraits of Tunisian Society by Roxanne Goldberg, August 28, 2015:

    - Pixelgray - Atef Maatallah by sarwiya, August 30, 2015: 

    - Nataal - Tunisian art flourishes with JAOU and a young generation of artists as its critical voice by Helen Jennings:

    - chaos without consequences:

    - Whitewall - JAOU Tunis: Talks, Tours, and Insights by Hili Perlson on June 3, 2014: 

    - TAG - Atef Maâtallah. Par-delà les figures et les maux. by Meysem Marrouki, 11-02-2013 from La Presse, Tunisie :