SLIMEN EL KAMEL: UNDERSKIN’
Until 26 Oct 2018, Sulger_Buell Lovell, London
Across the Road, 2018
The latest exhibition by Tunisian artist Slimen El Kamel, visually and viscerally exposes the relationship between the cultural, political and personal. In exquisite detail, unique subtle marks – each an expression of his bodily movements – reflect a reality that El Kamel experiences daily. His paintings are produced by means of a painstaking pointillist technique: making images through individual dots on the surface of the canvas which coalesce into figures and forms that speak of the narrative richness of his homeland.
As the artist observes ‘Underskin is a metaphorical expression that suggests the possibility of diving under the outer crust and under the surface. The canvas is a skin with holes to breathe.’
This is both a moment of wounding and healing. For El Kamel ‘the structural act consists of tapping on the canvas with an acrylic pen in a manner similar to the acupuncturist: making points next to each other so that they merge and form the scene.’
Get Up, 2018
Slimen El Kamel’s latest exhibition promises to present folklore and contemporary experience of life in Tunisia in a startling and profound way through a unique artistic language.
Underskin is a metaphorical expression that suggests the possibility of diving under the outer crust and under the surface. The canvas is a skin with holes to breathe. The structural act is simple consists of tapping on the canvas by an acrylic pen in a manner similar to the acupuncturist: making points next to each other to merge and form the scene.
The point is the first nucleus and a smaller component which makes the scene fragmented and coherent at the same time. We feel its fragility and fragmentation despite the realism that characterizes and activates it.
Miniature movements are fraught with history, memories and events lived by the human body. All the bodily expressions we make are not newly born; even spontaneous movements arise from archives and accumulations of knowledge. Every movement is thus a summary of the human being, all at once: I am as I am now and here but a moment ago I was different; no other looks like me and a moment after I will be totally different. We have to pay more attention to the simplest body expressions: eating, wearing, walking, standing up, talking and sleeping amongst others. Most of all we need to pay more attention to the act of astonishment.
The simple mark brings us back to the beginnings: to the first sound uttered, the first step made, and the first morsel tasted. This is what makes the project Underskin, an archaeological excavation of the layers of physical memory. We proceed from here and now, a self-forming through a surrounding of images network.
The realization is based on the multiplicity of stories and their overlap in the form of a network narratively interconnected, taking the form of a maze in which we get lost. Weaving events that are not linear but that encompass all possible trajectories is my aim in this work.
Each painting is a reservoir of tales collected by the artist. This collection is where the old intersects with the new, dreams with reality, the cultural with the political. This combination of subjects and references is exemplified by the use of various methods in the same work; just as many languages speak at the same time and move smoothly between them. The work that results becomes a space for debate, contemplation and ultimately, it becomes a place for democracy.
SLIMEN EL KAMEL, b.1983
Slimen El Kamel was born in Mazouna in the region of Sidi Bouzid in Tunisia. Nurtured in the popular narrative, his childhood was moulded by the imagination of the rural environment where the tradition of folk tales and poetry flourished. His studies at the Higher Institute of Fine Arts in Tunis allowed him to crystallise this literary and intellectual heritage into a singular artistic practice. A practice whose genesis opens through writing and draws its resources from its texts, sometimes poetic or literary, sometimes memorial or improvised. The daily writing exercise, while it delimits, extends the horizons of its physical universe.
Not far from free figuration, the artist questions the relationship between the real and the imaginary through the dramatization of the constellated image. Images of memory, of a reality taken from everyday media, intersect in a pictorial field where, on the surface of a picture, the rustling of a dialogue begins without end, not for the narrative of a fact, but for a festival of narratives. (texts the gallery)