1.You exhibited for the first time at the gallery as part of a collective exhibition called Cut & Paste, in November 2020, several works referring to Salammbô by Flaubert, under the title of “Oh Tanit, you love me don’t you?”. In your new series inspired by Maupassant, it seems you have kept this figure of a goddess – how has it evolved?
With Salammbô what interested me was, on the one hand, the “exoticisation” of Carthage and on the other, the confusion that exists in Tunisia, between Flaubert’s fictional story and the real history of Carthage. In the Tunisian imagination, Salammbô is a character from Punic history, whereas it is a fictional heroine of the end of the 19th century, that Flaubert imagined by drawing inspiration from several female figures, a mixture of Eve, of oriental dancers and of Punic goddesses. Without really realising it, it’s this shift from fiction to reality, from reality to myth, that I have in some way reapplied in this new series. With the same idea, of treating characters, from the early twentieth century or contemporary, real or imaginary, as enigmatic idols that one would have found in excavations.
- Among the artists who have influenced you, is there an area of surrealist influence that affects your work – I am thinking in particular of Max Ernst’s collages (A Week of Kindness), and of poets and writers, with Eluard (Rose), Bataille (L’oeil)? Where the colour pink has a special role.
Yes, unintentionally, Max Ernst’s collages certainly influenced me, but for this series, it was surrealist artists like Leonor Fini and Dorothea Tanning who inspired me. Georges Bataille also influences my work; there is in him this idea or this consciousness, that we are no longer in the historical process, but in insignificance and that from this insignificance could spring subversion, which would be a form of resistance. I don’t know if it comes across in what I do, but it’s something I think about a lot.
- In your creative process, do you deal with the literary work first, the excavation (which we find in Treasure of the Bardo National Museum and your collection), how do you construct the image?
In reality, I am constantly searching, I don’t structure the things I find, so whenever I come across an image, text, object, sound or phrase that appeals to me, I put it aside. Each of these elements point me to something else, so in fact it’s an endless process. Then the moment I build the image is where I make connections between the different elements, but I couldn’t really explain how; it’s often very instinctive.
- How do you work in the studio – how do you organise your work?
I don’t really organise my work; it’s quite complicated for me to explain how I do it. I try to lay out everything I have collected in front of me and as I go along, I introduce certain elements. Usually, I start by developing a first idea, and it’s as I develop it that other ideas come to mind and then I keep what I think works the best. Most of the time, I start with small formats, which lead me to larger ones, with collages which lead me to drawings, then to objects, or vice versa; I go from one medium to another, always with the idea of weaving connections.