LE TEMPS, TUNIS, 3.23.10
On Saturday February 20 2010, three groups of artists of the Lyme Academy of Fine Arts in New York (sic) have created the paintings shown as Tunisian Style Collaborative Paintings. This event was reported by several New York media sources as well as numerous American artists’ blogs. The meetings of the collaborative paintings were brought under the direction of the artist David Black who about a year ago became a kind of ambassador to the USA for Tunisian Style Collaborative Painting. Black discovered this concept during his visit to Tunisia en November 2008, participating with a group of Tunisian artists in the creation of a large painting in the work space of the ‘Espace Bouabana.” The title of the painting, which was given by himself, is none other than “A Night in Tunisia” in a wink to the Jazz namesake by Dizzy Gillespie. This event was also covered by the magazine Allemand Aufbay which devoted a four-page article to him in November 2008.
The concept of collaborative painting was developed by Hechmi Ghachem in the late 1980s. It’s a concept with simple rules and carried the generic name of BIP (Brigades d’Intervention Plastiques) in reference to the artists who composed the paintings. A great number of Tunisian Painters had already participated in various acts by the BIP; Nejib Belkhoja (who had participated in a monumental work in company with Zied Lasram, Najet Ghrissi, Hechmi Ghachem and Mourad Zerai), Faozi Chetuti, Lamine Sassi, Bessma Haddaoui, Halem Karabibine, Mohamed Chalbi, Hamadi ben Saad, Olfa Jegham, Omar Bey, Mustapha ben Attia and I am surely forgetting more.
The BIP created in the last eight years, for example, no less than twenty large paintings (around 4x2 meters) sent to various regions of Tunisie in Douz, Tazarka, Hammamet and Tunis.
The experience of the BIP is in my opinion a major contribution to the young history of Tunisian painting. And this for several reasons opens the concept to all types of artists and their universality.
This concept has been celebrated in numerous articles in print, electronic news and radio, especially in Switzerland, Canada, the US and England. The concept has also spread in the Arab world thanks to a documentary on the subject prepared by the company El Arabiya. The only country where this concept is concealed is . . . Tunisia. There are many clan rivalries of artists and it’s too bad! No less strange is that the schools of fine arts in the USA (particularly South Carolina, Philadelphia and New York) experimenting with this concept call it “Tunisian Style Collaborative Paintings”, and that the country that saw its emergence has not given it the interest it deserves.
The story of the young Tunisian painter is doubtlessly to be written one day, and the BIP to find a place of distinction for what they brought to the Tunisian fine arts.
Back in New York, (sic) on February 20 2010, I call on the words of Paula Billups, artist of Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts in New York who relates on her blog the story of the experience of Black in Tunis:
“He felt and saw how art transcends the boundaries of culture and language in collaborating in the creation of a painting. The desire to share this cosmic connection drove Black, on his return to the United States, to introduce the concept of Collaborative Painting to groups of American artists to organize one of these events. Yesterday was the first event of its kind in the United States. In November, an even more important collaboration will take place in Manhattan under the auspices of the Art Students league in company with Tunisian artists.”
Further on in her blog, Paula Billups relates the experience of painting in a group under the rules of the BIPs.
“After the paintings were completed, David Black talked to the artists about what had just happened. This dialog was enhanced by the presence and participation of Ira Goldberg, director of the Art Students League of New York. Looking at the paintings, it is clear that none of us could have done that alone, not only because of logistical constraints, but also because none of us would have produced or conceived of these images. David Black did not neglect to underline the harmony of this collective work. He next asked the question, “If you saw one of these paintings on the wall of a gallery, how many people would you say had painted it?”
“One!” was the response from all corners of the room. That is nothing less than a miracle!
David Black then discussed the influences of the painting approaches of the BIP and showed how it affected his own work, allowing him to be more audacious in his choices and less reluctant to change or erase his mistakes.
This experience of collective painting was not without moments of tension, but not as much as one would fear. A big thank-you to David Black for sharing this with us all!”