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“Postcard from Tangier,” 2014. Acrylic on wood, 36 in. x 24 in.

The Arts

Tale of the tape

Artist uses a new technique to create his works

BRATTLEBORO—Mohammed Daoudi may have developed a new visual art technique.

The results of his foray into this medium make their Brattleboro premiere at Simi Berman’s Qualche Volta Gallery in the Hooker-Dunham Building during November and December, with an artists’ reception at the December Gallery Walk.

Daoudi calls his new pieces “tape-estries,” word-playing on the layered effect one gets from mixing media — and on the technique itself, which requires clear adhesive tape — to create layers of shape, color, and sometimes text in a piece.

When asked if he’d invented this technique, Daoudi said he’d asked around and nobody had heard of it.

Daoudi has unspooled uncounted rolls of “the cheapo Staples stuff,” he says. He works in {3/4}-inch-wide tape.

Although he uses the tape to incorporate color and grey-scale bits of The New York Times into his works, the tape-estries are not collage; he doesn’t cut paper. He picks up only the pigment from the newsprint and builds it up in layers.

In the process of choosing which bits of the Times to incorporate into his pieces, Daoudi says he approaches the source material abstractly.

“I look at the paper upside down to get structures and shapes. I look at what it could be, not what it is. If you look, the shapes jump out at you,” he explains.

To say the process is time-consuming is an understatement. He has to go through hundreds of papers. “My discard pile is sometimes five feet high,” Daoudi says with a laugh. “My studio is a fire hazard.”

His current “tape-estries,”including those showing at Qualche Volta, incorporate the tape transfers into works using pencil and acrylic and oil paints.

“Tape-estries” also allow Daoudi to keep his work fresh: “I’ll work on a tape-transfer piece when I need a break from painting. I get bored easily,” he says.

Influenced by Tangier

Although the artist has made Windham County his home with his wife, Marcia, since the mid-1990s, Daoudi grew up in Tangier, Morocco. He describes the city of his birth as a major influence for his “tape-estries.”

“Morocco has many layers. You see it in daily life in culture, family, the way people dress, in the pottery. Even in conversations people have, it seems like there are subtitles. Also the food, with its layering and its many spices,” he says.

Daoudi explains that visitors to Morocco, “especially to the Casbah, the old town,” notice the streets are unlike, say, those in New York City, where the streets are based on a grid.

“The streets [in Morocco] are built around houses, not the other way around. The streets are byproducts of the houses. You look down from a hill, over a neighborhood, and it’s beautiful. It’s organic, layered.”

“I always go back there in my art,” he says. “This funky medium — tape — allows me to show something that appears a certain way ... until you look more closely at it.”

Although these works have never appeared publicly in Brattleboro prior to November, Daoudi began experimenting with his novel technique about 16 years ago, when he and Marcia owned Three Seasons Café. Marcia, a chef, made the food for the café off-site, and Mohammed operated the stand, which, for most of its duration, stood on the patio behind the Hooker-Dunham Building.

“During slow times, like after the lunch rush, I used to change the front page [of The New York Times] and redo it in my own style with things I had lying around, like Wite-Out, erasers, and pencils. One day I was bored, and I had tape, so I put the tape down on the paper. When I picked it up, I picked up the pigment,” Daoudi recalls.

Honing his craft amid brewing espressos and chatting with customers, he practiced picking up only the pigment, and not bits of paper, with the tape.

“You finally learn the technique after much trial and error,” Daoudi explains.

Those early pieces — reworked New York Times front pages — went quickly, with friends and family buying them all or receiving them as gifts.

Seeing Daoudi’s breadth of work could lead one to believe he’d put in years of art education.

In addition to his “tape-estries,” his fantastical line drawings, textured abstract paintings, and gorgeous portraits with their rich sense of color reveal a lively imagination, the talent to express these thoughts and images, and the skill and training to put them on paper, canvas, and wood so assuredly.

And Daoudi is self-taught.

As he says on his website, mohammeddaoudi.com, “Growing up in Tangier, Morocco, my family never had much money to justify having their son be an artist or even attend an art school.” Even if they had, art supplies were hard to come by, he says. Daoudi recalls there being one art store in the city, and it was small.

Knowing their son loved art, his parents found a way to encourage his creativity: “When my dad’s friends would travel abroad, he’d ask them to bring back art materials for me,” he says.

And, of course, he drew as a child. When he was a teenager, he would stay in on weekends and draw in his room.

As a young adult, he ended up going to college to study what he calls “money-making” subjects.” He took an art class at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., where he matriculated, but that was during the short winter semester, when students took classes outside of their majors.

Drawing on the side for the next 30 years, Daoudi supported his family but never at work he really wanted to do, and which left him little energy for painting.

Three years ago Daoudi said enough was enough. He committed his life to working on his art.

His friends and family helped bolster his confidence by buying his pieces and offering encouragement and a foundation upon which to build his artistic life.

“Marcia has always pushed me to keep doing art. I wouldn’t have built my studio were it not for Marcia,” Daoudi says.

“I said to myself, ‘I just quit this [expletive] good job,’” and feeling insecure about being self-taught, he spent the next year and a half engaged in what he describes as a self-taught MFA. He learned color, the human form, light, shadows, and oils.

But having the time and the support from his immediate community made all the difference.

“You need energy to go where you need to go to make something beautiful and meaningful,” Daoudi says. “Painting takes a lot of focus and physical energy. You know, the paintings don’t paint themselves.”

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Originally published in The Commons issue #282 (Wednesday, November 26, 2014). This story appeared on page B1.

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