In his series of 12 ink and graphite on paper drawings, Tunisian artist Nidhal Chamekh presents us with a gruesome assemblage of anatomy drawings and deadly weapons. A femur and a shotgun hold court with a policeman’s baton, the lifeless bodies of martyrs and detailed drawings of plants. Arabic script and scientific sketches present a dystopian vision of a world after the Arab Spring. Chamekh examines the upheavals that have taken place in the wake of the events of 2011 and their wider legacy,with a particular focus on the cost of not just material things, but on human life itself. Coming from a family of political activists, he probes the less glamorous realities of jihad and martyrdom, and probes the roots of dissent and revolution, such as the December 2010 self-immolation of a fruit vendor which went on to spark the riots that led to the Arab Spring. His use of montage creates new visions of a world in chaos, asking us to re-examine what we thought we already knew.
The visual sources of the works are numerous and varied, with Chamekh drawing on the media to extract images from social and political events that he finds of interest. He also delved into political, scientific and art historical archives. “In this sense, several temporalities are overlapped within the same board of drawing, with all the relationships and analogies that can unfold out of it,” Chamekh explains. By deconstructing and reconstructing this plethora of imagery, he provides a new experiential way of understanding current events.
“My drawings tend explicitly to resemble a visual study which combines subject and object with an investigation, with knowledge,” Chamekh explains. “I am interested in this process of study and note-taking – the idea of scientific charts, tests and observation allowing us a certain appreciation for the world that we might not otherwise notice. It is this richness of associations that I hope to combine to allow the imagination to be sparked in our observation of the world.”