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Paul Amar RIP (1919–2017)

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Paris-based Algerian self-taught artist Paul Amar has passed away at the age of 98. 

Amar began creating art in his late fifties, using shells as his main material, producing more than 200 exuberant pieces. Picked up on beaches or bought in from fishmongers' or other specialist shops, the shells were ground smooth, cut to shape, assembled and then varnished and heavily painted in a colourful, frenzied fusion to create cleverly orchestrated tableaux.

Amar's works occupied the whole space on all four walls of every room in his apartment, each piece individually lit and placed at the ideal height for display. He often said that his 'whatsits' were as crazy as he is. He was meticulous about detail, removing teeth from some of his figures, emphasising hunched backs and adding facial disfigurements, boils, warts and scars. He compounded the effect with earrings and nose-rings, outrageous make-up, and sometimes obscene gestures or poses. Paul Amar's imaginary 'court of miracles' pays homage to the notorious locales of his childhood.

Paul Amar loved his job as a taxi driver in Algiers with a passion and was a trusted chauffeur for pimps, and his friendship with the women concealed no hidden motive. He was absorbing the subtle traits that would later form part of the human drama of his tableaux; his work conveing something of the glittering wealth of the luxurious brothels he visited.

With glorious golds and outrageous colours, each one of Amar's artworks is a celebration of life, of unprecedented richness and sophistication. 

Photo courtesy Philippe Lespinasse