Tunisian born Taher Jaoui is moving through the world of Contemporary art one Abstract step at a time. From engineering to acting to painting, EMERGEAST sat with Taher to learn more about his artistic journey, the stories behind his compositions and what drives his dreams.
Who is Taher Jaoui the artist?
Taher Jaoui is a self-taught painter. Today, I reached the point where I have understood that painting is my destiny. Within the realms of each painting, I aim to bring life to the surface of the canvas by leaving traces, shapes and colours of different mediums. I learned mostly by practicing and by working on my craft every possible moment of each day.
Tell us about your story and how you went from acting in LA to becoming an artist in Paris.
I currently live between Paris and Berlin. Following my parent’s recommendations, I studied Engineering and practiced as an Engineer for a few years in Paris. Later on, I understood that it was against my nature to pursue a career and live a life to satisfy my parents. I couldn’t bear to hide my physical and emotional expressions so I decided to go after my own dreams instead of my parent’s dreams. The journey started with acting school in Paris and in Los Angeles. It was an incredible experience for me, as it was the first time I felt connected to my soul and my feelings. I still consider acting as one of the best jobs I’ve ever taken, yet I did find it frustrating to have my body as the only mode of self expression. This is when I turned to using paintbrushes and acrylics to paint in my apartment in Paris on the walls, on paper and on random objects I’d find lying around. At the time, painting was a tool for me to release tension whilst acting. I decided to take it to another level when I moved to Berlin in 2012 to focus on visual arts, and here I am today.
As a Tunisian artist based in Europe, do you identify yourself as a Middle Eastern artist with Western influences or a Western artist with Middle Eastern roots?
Frankly, I do not identify myself as a Middle Eastern artist nor as a Western artist, although people tend to categorize me. Of course, deep down inside me I have all the influences of my Tunisian-African roots coupled with my different life experiences. I identify myself first as a human being trying to connect to the emotions and the imaginations of other human beings through a composition and a canvas.
Can you tell us specifically what influences your rich abstract canvases?
One of the main influences are the lessons I learned in acting classes. The actor always needs to have a specific goal to successfully perform a scene, yet he also has to trust his feelings and live fully in the moment. I do not paint if I feel disconnected to my emotions or if I don’t have a specific intention when leaving traces on the canvas. I am also inspired by some well known expressionist painters such as De Kooning, Pollock and Twombly. I adore primitive arts and the stories behind it and the history. I am also influenced somewhat by my African heritage and I find African masks fascinating. I also never paint without music, mostly I listen to rock and classical music.
Do you plan the composition / colour palette of your works in advance or does the brush lead you on the spot?
I do sketch time to time but there is no conscious connection between the sketches and the compositions on the canvas. You can see and find some connections and some repetition between the sketches and the canvas but in a certain part of the composition and in a certain way.
The titles of your work are often satirical and playful; do you aim to guide the viewer towards what to see?
The titles come to me from the atmosphere of the moment. It is always connected to my personal interpretation of the composition but I don’t aim specifically to guide the viewer. Using satirical and playful names, I invite the viewer to participate in the composition and to create his own story.
How do you imagine the connection between your art and the individual observing it?
I aim to include the viewer completely in the composition and the world it brings. My compositions are like a never ending story or film. I invite the viewer to apply his imagination and interpret the canvas for themselves.
If you could collaborate with anyone, who would it be and why?
The next step of including the viewer in my work could be inviting him to take part and to use the brushes to collaborate with me. I would invite people with no practice or knowledge of the techniques and the art world. I believe all of us have something different to contribute to the world.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years, what’s in store for Taher Jaoui?
I only know that in 10 years, I will be doing the same thing every day…I’m truly happy. Painting is something that moves me with every single breath.
Check out Taher Jaoui’s available works HERE!
In the past 3 years, Taher has exhibited across Europe, Tunisia, Morocco, Japan and the USA. His most recent solo show took place in Tunis 28th January and will be running for a month.