Tunisian collaborative painting
Tunisian Collaborative Painting is an art form developed in Tunisia in the mid-1980s. It is unique in its method of allowing a group of artists to work simultaneously on a canvas without discussion or planning beforehand. The result is a painting created by a group of individuals that looks like the work of a single artist.
Tunisian artist Hechmi Ghachem created Tunisian Collaborative Painting in 1988 when Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali became president and dictator of Tunisia. “Freely expressing yourself in Ben Ali’s Tunisia was dangerous,” said Hechmi. He set out to reclaim freedom of expression for Tunisian artists. He formed groups called Brigades d'Intervention Plastique. “The brigades enabled artists to leave their professional loneliness and work in the same space, and on the same canvas” said Hechmi. “They created ties built on pleasure, excitement, struggle, jealousy, life, and love and death, as in every creative act. Together they produced paintings which mixed the best parts of themselves with the best parts of each of the other artists. One painting represented the individuality of all.”
Hechmi Ghachem took his Brigades all over Tunisia. When a painting was finished it was given to the host who supplied the space where it was painted. Over a period of several years, hundreds of paintings were created. Many artists participated, some of them well-known and others who were new. The paintings they created together preserved the freedom of artists during the dictatorship of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali.
Tunisian Collaborative Painting in America
In November 2008, U.S. Ambassador to Tunisia, Robert Godec invited artist and Fulbright Scholar David Black to a reception for his paintings which were hanging in the Ambassador’s residence under the Art in Embassies Program of the U.S. Department of State. Ambassador Godec also introduced David Black to Hechmi Ghachem and the Tunisian artists who were practicing Tunisian Collaborative Painting and they invited him to participate.
Mr. Black invited the Tunisian artists to teach Tunisian Collaborative Painting in America but the Tunisian government would not let them leave the country. Hechmi Ghachem suggested that David Black introduce the new art form in America.
On February 20, 2010, David Black conducted the first session of Tunisian Collaborative Painting in America at Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts in Old Lyme, Connecticut. The students were excited by the experience and the paintings were successfully auctioned off to benefit the Academy.
Ira Goldberg, the Executive Director of The Art Students League of New York, was a spectator at Mr. Black’s workshops at Lyme Academy and he wrote a featured article entitled "All in One" in the League's Linea Journal: “Tunisian Collaborative Painting, purely by virtue of its simple set of rules, requires the elimination of desire in the creative act. Seeing what emerges without any pre-determination gives the artist incredible insight into what is possible in art. As a teaching tool, with its potential for visual expression, Tunisian Collaborative Painting has the potential to be a school unto itself.”
On November 8, 2010, at the invitation of Ira Goldberg, David Black conducted five days of workshops in Tunisian Collaborative Painting at The Art Students League of New York. One hundred and twenty-five artists from 30 countries created 26 paintings and each one of them looked like the work of a single artist. The word most used by the artists to describe their experience was “liberating.” In keeping with Tunisian tradition, the completed art works were donated to be auctioned off for the benefit of the school.
On December 17, 2010, a month after the workshops at The Art Students League, a 26-year-old Tunisian, Mohamed Bouazizi was selling fruit to feed his family. Ben Ali’s police took his fruit away and beat him. Mr. Bouazizi poured paint thinner on himself and lit a match. Word of his fiery death spread quickly and some of the Tunisian artists David Black had painted with risked their lives demonstrating in the streets. The Jasmine Revolution ended a month later on January 10, 2011 when Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, the ruler of Tunisia for 23 years, fled the country.
In November 2011, the new government of Tunisia gave permission for the Tunisian artists to travel to America as guests of David Black. The participation of the Tunisian artists in the Tunisian Collaborative Painting workshops at The Art Students League in New York generated worldwide interest. It was covered by The Wall Street Journal, the BBC, and National Public Radio. In addition, Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton issued a statement in which she said, “David Black is an honorary diplomat. By introducing this unique art form to the United States at a time when the Tunisian artists who pioneered it could not travel, he built a bridge that artists from both countries are now able to cross.”
Mr. Black currently conducts Tunisian Collaborative Painting workshops throughout the United States.
Images from Tunisian Collaborative Painting sessions may be found on the Facebook page "Tunisian Collaborative Painting in America."
The form has these characteristics:
Tunisian Collaborative Painting:
There must be at least three artists with a maximum of ten. There is no pre-conceived subject. One artist starts the painting and says when it is finished. Anyone can paint at any time and anyone can paint over anyone else's work. One artist is appointed an arbiter to settle disputes. A painting can take a maximum of two days to be completed.
Tunisian Collaborative Painting in America:
There must be at least three artists with a maximum of seven. There is no pre-conceived subject. One artist starts the painting. Anyone can paint at any time and anyone can paint over anyone else's work. One artist is appointed an arbiter to settle disputes. If any artist thinks the painting is finished he raises his hand and the arbiter takes a vote. Only a majority of the artists can declare a painting finished. A painting can take a maximum of three hours. The painting is created in silence.
- Personal Correspondence with David Black
- Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts: "First U.S. Demonstration of Tunisian Collaborative Art"
- "Team Effort" The Day Newspaper Feb 21 2010
- "All for One" LINEA Fall 2010 Art Students League of New York
- "One Canvas, Many Masters" Wall Street Journal Nov. 17, 2011
- "Collaborative Painting in North Africa" BBC Nov. 21, 2011
- "Tunisian Collaborative Painting" WNYC Dec. 9, 2011
- Tunisian Collaborative Painting Examples
- Video of TCP workshop at the Art Student League, Nov 13, 2010 featuring David Black
- Video of painters at TCP Workshop at the Art Student League, Nov 13, 2010
- Facebook Page Tunisian Collaborative Painting in America
- "Crowdsourcing: The art of a crowd" Christian Science Monitor, Jan 14, 2011
- Art Students League of New York Workshop Description
- Kickin' it Tunisian Style Arts Council of Greater New Haven, Feb 21 2010
- Artist Paula Billups' experience with Tunisian Collaborative Painting
- "From Tunisia to Manhattan" New York Press, Nov 9 2011
- "Sharing the Artful Impulse, Tunisian Style" U.S. Dept. of State, March 3, 2012
- Art in Embassies Program U.S. Dept of State
- Aufbau Magazine - Winter Issue 2009
- Le Temps - Tunisian newspaper, March 23, 2010 and March 28, 2010. Author: Mourad Zerai
- David Black Artists Page
- David Black Paintings