Slimen Elkamel is an artist and art critic, holding a master’s in painting and a PhD from the Institut Supérieur des Beaux-Arts de Tunis. The rural surroundings of his youth proved formative to his practice, and it was in Sidi Bouzid, amongst the long-standing traditions of folk tales and poetry that his preoccupation with lived and virtual reality was sown. More recent works explore the social and communicative parameters of our ‘reality complex’. Elkamel considers the ways in which these multiple ‘realities’ hinge upon visual and auditory channels of communication. His works have been widely exhibited in international forums and he has undertaken residencies at the Living Arts Center, Rades, Tunisia, among others. Selected exhibitions include NOW, a two-person exhibition with Neill Wright, Sulger-Buel Lovell, London (2017) and Yesterday is tomorrow’s memory: a group show of work from North Africa, Elmarsa, Dubai (2016).More
Every human being has a deep and poetic history. Each daily movement generated by a person as simple and spontaneous as it is, includes a story, a memory and memories. The body is imprinted with its daily experience and wraps itself in an individual identity, unique to the person. These are the simple gestures, eating, walking, getting up, sleeping, that build being. These stories, seemingly unimportant, but for me are essential. I feed on details to capture the magic of others' everyday lives. Myths are born of very simple tales. A man who falls in love with his mother or another who keeps admiring his reflection on the surface of the water. For me, every being in the folds of its history bears a mythical depth that goes beyond a mere banal surface of existence. The imagination of the rural environment permeated by the tradition of storytelling and poetry, marked my childhood and nourished my spirit of images. These infinite resources of the past mingle with my present and spring in painting. The images overlap forming a coherent network. These stories proliferate on the canvas in all directions and take the form of a labyrinth, not linear but interconnected.
I begin by writing poetic texts about what surrounds me. Literary experiments, Arabic poetry, prose, real stories fed by improvised imaginary, are the starting point of a semi-real story that is gradually emerging in my mind. Then, in a first throw, the painting becomes a refuge to these ideas. Then it turns into a space of conflict, exchange, rapprochement, construction which leads me to use different methods. From screen printing, transfer of images, sculpture, from academic drawing to naïve childish drawing, from pointillist painting to tachism to assemblage, the technique for me must be at the service of the reliefs of history and its expression material must be proportionate.
The point is for me creator of everything. It is the smallest component on the plastic plane. It is the beginning of a scene of life in an apparently fragmented space of expression that conveys a coherent story. In a profound simplicity, this story refers to the basic; at the first sound of a voice that one hears, at the first step of a walk one makes, at first taste in the puck one tastes.
The set of points translates a real peaceful but fragile and fragmented in perpetual movement. He obeys these movements full of history, memories and experience. Each movement is a summary of oneself. Simple daily movements do not emerge from emptiness, they are charged with an intense political and social history that generates and builds them. This is for me a narrative figuration or even free figuration and magical realism. The perspectives of my artistic practice are drawn with a plastically theatrical touch. Carved characters, emerging from the surface of the canvas, overlapping the two-dimensional space and crowning the entire work. These characters are in search of freedom and I place myself as a director of a theater scene between myth and reality. The work becomes almost an object or a device carrying suspended objects inspired by the puppet theater.
Slimen Elkamel is a contemporary Tunisian artist born in 1983 and living in Tunis. He was exhibited in international fairs like 1:54 and galeries.