Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Tunisia: a selection of pochades


Douz central market, oil on card, 9/ 13 cm SOLD

Oasis, Tozeur, oil on card, 9/ 11 cm    SOLD

Tunis, The French Quarter, oil on card, 14.5 / 12.5 cm

The Mediteranean Sea, Sidi Bou Said, oil on card, 15 / 12 cm

Evening, El Jem, oil on card, 12 / 14 cm

Carthage, Tunis, oil on card, 14 / 13 cm

A football pitch, Matmata, oil on card, 13 / 13 cm

 Olive plantations, Sfax, oil on card, 10/ 12 cm   SOLD

Tozeur, a mosque, oil on card, 10 / 12.5 cm   SOLD

 Sfax, Docks, oil on card, 10/ 12 cm   SOLD

A side street, Tozeur, oil on card, 10/ 8.5 cm   SOLD

Here's a selection from Tunisia:. All the places I visited have features of obvious tourist appeal: Tunis  (Carthage/ Medina/ French  Quarter/ Sidi Bou Said), El Jem (the Roman Collosseum), Sfax (Medina), Tozeur (Medina, Oasis), Douz (central Market) and Matmata (Pit dwellings), in a journey that took me roughly south.

I went by train (very cheap and pleasant) bus and louage. It's not as orderly as Northern Europe, nor is it quite as messy as Brazil.

For me the pleasure of painting in Tunisia wass largely in depicting the white, very geometric buildings, which are set off by brilliantly coloured doors and windows, or the lands itself, which varied where I was from sandy and rocky to the sandy and green. The light is very bright in winter, coming in from the side lending wonderfully contrasts between darks and lights.

I also liked, in the smaller towns such as Tozeur, the little workshops where things are made or repaired, the tiny motorbikes, and seeing the markets though the traders often bored me with their sales pitches (Douz was considerably less annoying in this resepct and for some local cultural reasons that I can't fathom no-one hassled me at all there).

The contrasts between colonial districts -so very French with their crumbling Ecole de Beaux Arts stucco and patisseries- and the older Medinas are fascinating too, though as I have a strong aversion to tightly enclosed spaces and disorder,  I found spending a huge amount of time in these old, closed commercial areas intolerable. But they are certainly interesting, with wonderful doors and arches. There are stray cats everywhere.

But I was able to paint the Medina in Tozeur and Douz from above, thanks to the help of a shopkeeper and a hotel terrace respectively.

Perhaps it was the unusually cold weather, but the mood, especially of Tunis, was sullen, and while people were helpful enough, and occasionally kind, the country did not convey the sense of hopefulness that one imagines a new democratic settlement would bring.

I also felt that being North European was not seen positively, perhaps not surprisingly given the legacy of Western meddling and exploitation in North Africa. I told some people that I was Brazillian but they weren´t having it: too white they said. They´ve obviously never been to Santa Catarina.

Some of the paintings edge towards tourist painting- that is, tracing obvious set views. But, I think, most do not. And sometimes the set-piece tourist view is the set-piece because it is indeed striking, and to stating the obvious is not the same as being platitudinous.

Tozeur, view from a cafe, oil on card, 14 / 12 cm


Six of these paintings from Tunisia were taken by Rose Issa Projects, a gallery in Kensington specialising in Middle-Eastern and Arabic art.


  1. Many thanks Carmen!

    The trips are pretty good for me, and I'll be trying to spend as much time doing them as I can over the coming years.