El-Seed paints the Jara mosque

Tunisia has been the stage lately of a surge of intolerability towards creativity and especially towards anything to do with a spray can. As a result, the French-born Tunisian graffiti artist El-Seed took action.

El Seed - Jara mosque | Art-PieThe result is Tunisia’s largest mural but what matters above all is the the location; he painted on the country’s tallest minaret, at the Jara Mosque, located in the industrial city of Gabes. Pictures after the fold.

Here is what El-seed says about the project “I decided to do the mural because it was close to my heart. It had been a while I had wanted to paint a wall in Gabes,” the artist told Ahram Online.

“The primary purpose was, and is, to inspire people to get together and build community around positive action,” El-Seed told Ahram Online via email. “

The mural, which has been embraced with open arms by the mosque’s Imam, was painted on the 57-metre high minaret, and is meant as a message of tolerance and mutual respect.

El-Seed got interestd in the art of graffiti back in 1998 in Paris, where he spent his childhood. Later, when he moved to North America, he started combining graffiti with his passion for Arabic calligraphy (usually associated with the Quran and religious scripture). The artist likes to mix traditional script and contemporary pop-culture, giving birth to a distinctive urban graffiti.

El Seed - Jara mosque | Art-PieEl Seed - Jara mosque | Art-Pie

El Seed - Jara mosque | Art-Pie

David Lee at Graffik gallery- 'Vive La France’

David Lee - Vive La FranceBorn in Doncaster in the fifties David Lee flew the nest at a young age to set up residence in London, which heralded a new phase in his life, as he discovered London’s burgeoning hippy scene. However, during his early thirties, his love affair with France began with the marriage of his French wife.

Inspired by modern French painters, particularly Cézanne, his exploration of the forthright nude and his radical brush strokes were the first step toward Impressionism.

Lee’s paintings are inspired not only from the South of France and Paris but from the era between the 1920’s and 50’s, which is a common theme in all of his work.

Lee readily adopted the cafe culture of our continental cousins where Paris seized him. Spending so much time in the City of Lights, enjoying such impassioned vibrancy, the cafes were the creative enclaves where his artistry was honed.

His work embodies a delightful image of French café culture. The distinction from Lee’s work is how he captures this hustle and bustle of Parisian cafés giving us canvases splashed with vivid colour, radiating gaiety and the joy of life.

A second love interest later developed and this new ménage-a-trois between London, Paris and the South of France was a source of nouveau inspiration. With a palette full of colour from the warm South, Lee has brought back from the azure shore paintings that palpitate with hot sunlight and dazzle with their audacious colour.

Exclusively for Graffik Gallery David Lee has also painted a series of French inspired pop-art portraits.

To celebrate Lee’s Anglo-French love affair the preview will feature a themed party, which includes feasting on French delicacies, a wine tasting and a mime artist.

‘Vive La France’ 26 April – 9 May 2012 – Daily 11am to 6pm
To RSVP to the Private View (26/4) please email art@graffikgallery.co.uk

More information about Dave Lee’s show

Democracy Outside – street performances and activism

Words by Clare Cochrane

ART-PIE - Democracy OutsideDemocracy outside or street performance that blurs the boundaries of art and activism, and makes social movement real

A group of people show up in a public space with a banner, placards, leaflets, and a loudhailer. Two people each take a placard and stand a few feet apart, stretching the banner between them. The group stand between the placards, and one person calls out a question about a current political issue through the loudhailer. The huddled people look at each other, and start to move, some towards one placard, marked ‘No’, some towards the other, marked ‘Yes’. The loudhailer is passed around and people take turns explaining their point of view. As the dialogue progresses, people move about, shifting their positions. Slowly passers by gather and join in, and the space for re-imagining democratic exchange grows, as we open our imaginations in response to one another’s questions and reflections, and play at politics together.

ART-PIE - Democracy outside

Opening up public space is right now more urgent than it has been for some time. As the journalist Anna Minton has documented, we have seen an increasing and increasingly rapid privatisation of public space over the last decade or so, – it as as though we are witnessing a 21st century wave of enclosures. In Oxford, where Democracy Outside was first developed and performed, Bonn Square  in the city centre has been declared a ‘licensed venue‘ , so that spontaneous public art and political protests are no longer legal there. The irony is strong: Bonn Square, the traditional site for political gatherings in the city, was named for democracy after the capital of the new West Germany when the two cities were twinned in the early cold war; it hosts the city’s war memorial listing men who died in the first world war too young to vote when the franchise stood at 21; and today it’s the preferred ‘hanging out’ location for excluded, disenfranchised youth who feel unheard and ignored.

Street art has long had a vital role to play in opening up public space. Yes, it brightens up a dull place, but it also demonstrates that it is possible to think beyond what is presented by the authorities. Engaged performance can go further – breathing life into an anaesthetised space. Participatory performance, involving the spectators as performers, as actors, goes another step further still. So much public space has been etherised, deadened, and depoliticised – whether through privatisation or, as in Oxford, through deliberate attempts to stifle and ultimately mute spontaneous expression. People using such spaces become numb, paralysed, stupefied.

Democracy Outside shows a way to change this – in Democracy Outside the spectator / participants break the stupefying spell, activate their imaginations and themselves, and with their voices break the silence. It opens up the public space and invites the public in to experience the possibilities for open democratic dialogue – and to feel how it it is to literally change one’s point of view – to break free of the old back and forth, black vs white of prescribed political exchange.

The artist Shelley Sacks has offered a redefinition of ‘aesthetic‘ as meaning ‘enlivened being’. The challenge is to create, in our anaesthetic public realm of commodified communication, de-politicised debate, and deadened senses, a place where people can be in this (beautiful) state of awareness and connectedness.

James Baldwin said “artists are here to disturb the peace”: if peace means the peace and quiet of deactivated, desensitised space, then this has possibly never been more necessary than it is at this moment in time. Artists and creators – we have a job to do! Let’s do Democracy Outside!

Democracy Outside is touring England in June and July – for more details and to join the dialogue online go to https://network23.org/demo2012/.

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