Currently showing at REDSEA Gallery in Dempsey Hill are paintings by TAHER JAOUI. We learn more about this self-taught artist, including the inspiration for his artwork in Singapore.
A French artist with Tunisian roots, Taher Jaoui studied financial mathematics, engineering and computer science – he didn’t have a formal education in art. His mother, a maths teacher, familiarised him with the world of formulas when he was a child, and it’s the symbols and signs from these formulas that are now incorporated into some of his compositions.
Tell us about your artwork on display at REDSEA Gallery Singapore.
During the process of making my compositions, I like to listen to music, and sometimes I integrate the influence of the songs in my painting process. For example, one of my paintings, You Can’t Make No Mistake, is inspired by the song “Make No Mistake” by Keith Richards. The Ecstasy of Gold refers to a song by Metallica – the beginning of the song is from the movie The Good, The Bad and the Ugly. I really love this movie and I pay homage to it in this painting. I refer to the interaction between the different energies of the characters, something like the cyclical fight between yin and yang.
The Elephant is in the Room was made in 2020, when Donald Trump was in the media a lot. I see Trump as an elephant in a Chinese porcelain shop – and that’s what I’m referring to in the painting!
I’m also inspired by movie quotes or scripts that I like. It’s usually something ironic, or funny at first, but with a specific meaning for me. One of the most memorable to me is “A cat with seven souls”. It’s a personal message to remind myself that failure is not permanent and you can always start over again – like the famous myth that cats have multiple lives.
Another of my paintings, A Postponed Dream, was done when I was full of colourful ideas and a burst of bright energy. To me, this work is an invitation to believe in dreams, and focus on what you want to achieve in life, without procrastinating all the time.
How does your non-art background impact on your artwork?
It has a huge impact. It impacts my vision of my paintings and the structure of my compositions. Mathematical symbols and formulas are for me a natural language; it’s something I grew up exposed to. So I perceive it as an artistic expression in itself, and it’s why it appears in my artworks. I also have a scientific background, which is why I’m constantly thinking of new ways to integrate science into my artistic expression! For example, apart from painting, I also create 3D sculptures.
How did your current art style come about?
My painting style is built on my different inspirations, from science to the abstract expressionist art movement, and from cartoons to cubism.
What’s the most enjoyable part of your art creation process?
For me, it’s the first drawing that establishes the first steps of the composition. I find it the most free and intuitive moment in the whole construction of the painting.
What is your studio setup usually like when you’re creating art?
I like to rotate between paintings, so I’ll work on several pieces at any given time. They will usually be at different levels of completion as well. I generally listen to more instrumental music while I work, so I can stay concentrated and have all my energy focused on my paintings.
Where are you currently based, and what are some things you like about the location?
Until a year ago, I was based in Berlin, but I have since moved to Madrid. When I was in Berlin, I loved to explore the green areas, forest, lakes – especially the Plänterwald area; I love its quiet solitude and authenticity.
Now, here in Madrid, my favourite spot is the famous El Retiro park, for running, meditation, walking and hanging out with my friends. It’s the most inspiring place for me in the city.
What’s the next step for you in your art?
I’m experimenting with integrating more and more physical and tactile elements into my paintings and compositions. I would love to experiment more with sculptures and installations.
I’ve also recently started experimenting with airbrushing. I’m excited by the level of freedom and precision it offers, and I love the liberating feel, precision and the different depths it gives to the painting surface.
Lastly, what piece of advice would you give to somebody who wants to make a living from art?
Work, work, work! Create as often as possible, trying different mediums and different materials and staying connected to the art world by following art blogs, reading books and articles about the history of art and contemporary art. My favourites to follow are Artnet.com and artsy blogs, and my favourite books are Seven Days in the Art World by Sarah Thornton, and The Value of Art: Money, Power, Beauty by Michael Findlay.
This article first appeared in the September 2021 edition of Expat Living. You can purchase the latest issue or subscribe, so you never miss a copy!