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by Nadia JELASSI

To depict their characters, some authors proceed either by describing their physical or personality traits or the literary restitution of their purpose or thought. If I were to engage in this kind of exercise for fun or the pleasure of the context, I would not use the physical attributes of the individual to be described first, but rather the objects consumed by him. Indeed, it is certain objects which seem definitively sealed to the body of a person generating gestures even quasi organic substances by this unique link specific.

It is, indeed, some objects which seem definitively sealed to the body of a person generating by this unique link specific gestures even quasi organic substances. Imed Jemaïel is not a character in a novel but a friend and partner accomplice for almost thirty years now. If I we were to unfold our common scriptural memories, we would extract thousands of sentences, hundreds of sheets, millions of printed words, but also, and perhaps above all, handwritten words in black, aligned on a white page.

Sheets of pre-cut paper in A4 format and pens with a well-chosen tip constitute the first family of intimate objects that best identify the artist and distinguish his scripto-plastic approach.

Imed Jemaiel, Drawing on paper, 28.7 x 21 cm, 2010

These took shape before the recent exploration of other plotters and supports such as pens with acrylic chargers and cotton or linen canvas. Within reach, easy to carry, these objects always allowed him and in all places, urbi et orbi, to make the junction between the decodable, derived from scriptura, and the illegible, native of the graphein.

His own text as pre-text

Imed Jemaïel is a devourer of texts, a voracious consumer of written words, and a gourmet of words and lines. Seduced since childhood by the aesthetics of the white sheet, and curious about the grain of the paper and inks, he has evolved over the course of the artist’s proofs and state, in the theater of the engraving workshop or in other places and neighborhoods in the fine gastronomy of the handwritten page. Specifically interested in works dedicated to the kitchen, while drawing from their vocable, in the blink of an eye with the informed palate of the artist, I will state that its spices and ingredients so singular are calligraphed in the collections of the black and its knots of whites, in the notebooks of the line and its bouquet furnished with interlines, in the albums of the clarified graph often of paragraphs, without neglecting the books of the margins and the edges, natural flavours of the page and its writing. Sitting, pen in hand, I. Jemaïel describes his own manuscript. In the meanders of the swarming gesture that adds and replaces line by line the field of the written word, that blurs the words without erasing them, that crosses out the signs and embroiders the blanks, the handwritten page moves in a balletic interlace. It becomes impossible to reconstitute step by step the progress of a work that intermingles, to the point of a comma, the structures of the manuscript with those of a textural drawing that represents only the moving landscape of its own generative process. The line clinging to the sign, the white knotting itself to the black; the surface of the sheet woven with imaginary or real rules blossoms in the straightness of the line and in the curve, counteracting the straightness imposed by the written word. A new grammar replaces little by little the old one. The original text reveals itself to the viewer while letting glimpses of a – je ne sais quoi- of itself. It is always there without being there because deprived forever of its codes of legibility. Another image of oneself takes the place of the first one, that of a nosy hand superimposing graphic narratives, weaving weft on weft. As a concept, manipulated in this way, the text thus finds its original integrity, is freed however from any evangelical or biblical load encrusted by the history in the etymology even of the word.

On Proust's side, the erasure works

When one is so attached to the sensitive character of the manuscript, one cannot avoid looking to the work of others. Visiting the National Library of France, Imed Jemaïel asked to see the manuscripts of writers. Very quickly, new matrices opened to him, including Proust as well as other authors from different eras and geographies. However practical it may be, a format cannot limit the writhing body, a hand eager for inscription and marks. The reproduction of these manuscripts on A3 paper facilitates paths never explored and engages the artist in another path. In search not of a lost time but of other devices of writing distinct from his own, the artist begins another series of pagigrams. The drafts of writers, we know, represent the trace of a literary thought in gestation. Blackened traces of words and erasures, these pages translate a conflict between words, their direction and sonorities, their order answers specific constraints of the field of the writing. The erasure is thus a necessary move towards the poïétique of literature and cannot make claims in this sense to any plasticity. For the artist, the erasure would not know how to identify with the erasure and the failure nor to agree with the tabula rasa and its negations. Imed Jemaïel appropriates the erasure not only like repetitive plastic motive, but also like an underlying structure, being able sometimes to arrange the whole of the work. In this sense, the erasure becomes one of the most distinctive signs of the artist’s grammar. By resorting to these new matrices, Imed Jemaïel also adopts the color of the manuscript’s yellowed paper  and that of the ink used by the writer; the sepia and other colors then come into play. The source text is thus at first considered as an image composed of lines, blanks, more or less compact masses, erasures and borders. The pagigrams find in their way the writing’s iconic sources.

Extents and borders

The forms of various drafts and their arrangement are now internalised by the artis with their graphies engraved on his body. Of the initial and initiating texts, he will keep only the memory of their framework and the swarming of their signs. On a large, unrolled canvas primed with a clear tint, with the help of a pen loaded with liquid acrylic, he will simulate the presence abandoning, by the very extent of this new support, the bodily attitude of the scribe or the seated writer. This matrix of false draft will constitute the frame on which the artist will affix erasures and other lines. Line by line, first with black or sepia acrylic, red, blue, yellow, and gold in succession, Imed Jemaïel dynamically approaches the surface and fills it with a multitude of signs echoing the configuration of paragraphs while partially freeing themselves. Some signs take advantage of the white to take flight and move as seeds scattering in space to seek habitats for the development of future growth, summoning by the same signs from the Constellations series of Miro. The artist’s graphics unfold on the surface, taking support on a missing but potentially present text, emerging between lines and spaces, pushing through blacks, growing in the whites until conquering the margins and embellishing them with ornaments. Wandering from one line to another, roaming between paragraphs, superimposed on them and internally juxtaposed, regularly, or intermittently, the line crisscrosses the canvas, folds and folds, expands and thickens, tracks the trace of the text and courts its peripheries. Both predictable and unexpected, its growth stirs, it invites the here and now and claims the infinite.

Imed Jemaiel, drawing on paper, 29.7 x 42 cm, 2013

In their reduced palette and their glistening wink, their bordered composition, some pagigrams recall the pages of certain illuminated manuscripts of the European medieval age. In various ways, they also call to mind the Maqâmât (Books of Sessions) or other moral, medical or astronomical works produced in Baghdad in the 8th century. If they stimulate the secondary memory of books of hours, breviaries or bestiaries, lettering and ornamentation, the pagigrams obey only their own rhythm; that of a hand caught up in the written word and enamored by the unwritten. No morals, no astronomical or medical knowledge … can be extracted from them. Yet, the artist has drawn a memory, sometimes suggesting registers, columns, and at other times of paragraphs, the erasure made the difference among other things. The borders / framing of certain pagigrams do not twine flowers and foliage,

do not entwine birds or shells. Worked in resonance from another iconographic tradition, recalling in particular Miro and his constellations, in finer and airy lines, in a kind of graphic rupture with the surface which they surround, these frames do not enclose the composition, since they invite the spectator to raise their eyes… to lend themselves better to the search, undoubtedly!

Artist, teacher at ISBAT
March 18, 2014