"Independent of the subject matter or medium, mastering of the technique is at the heart of my works."
“In 1956, as a young graduate of L’Ecole du Louvre, I boarded a train to Venice and sailed across two seas to Lebanon where I would begin my archaeological fieldwork on the Bronze Age at Byblos. I had no idea then that my scholarly studies would soon be overshadowed by the challenges and opportunities of a new creative path. Painting was, as it is today, at the heart of my life. Following an exhibition of my paintings, woodcuts and drawings at the Centre d’Etudes Supérieures in Beirut, I was contacted by Emir F. Chehab who asked if I would like to contribute to the revival of Lebanese handicrafts.
Although tapestry was relatively new to me, I was aware of the role played by Jean Lurçat in the revival of tapestry. For the next three years, I relied upon the expertise of the traditional weavers of Zouk Mikael. I increased the width of the looms from 80 cm to 140 cm, so that it became possible to execute basse-lisse wall tapestries of all dimensions, while keeping the shuttle and the large comb. I created life-size cartoons with numbers corresponding to the colours so that the weavers could interpret my cartoons in wool that I acquired from Aubusson. It was also important to establish a genuine collaboration with the weavers early on; their skill and perseverance were crucial to the success of the enterprise.
In 1960, a first exhibition of wall tapestries took place at UNESCO in Beirut. Of the eleven works on display, “The Fisherman” was by far the most ambitious in terms of size (140 cm x 220 cm) and composition. Over the next fifteen years, I collaborated with head weaver Antoine Saadé and his team to produce nineteen more wall tapestries. I introduced a new weaving technique that averted the troublesome “slits” resulting from colour changes on the loom. I chose the "petit point” for a tighter weft and contrary to the prevailing preference for series, I decided to create a single tapestry per cartoon. In the 1970s, I met Picart le Doux, who became a friend, offering encouragement in my endeavours.
In 1965, I created the first tapestry entirely woven in silk (warp and weft). I entitled this 110 cm x 160 cm piece La corbeille de fleurs. For the next ten years, I exhibited wall tapestries in Beirut, as well as in Evreux, La Baronnie de Douvres-la Délivrande and Bordeaux in France.”
This review was published by Circle Foundation for the Arts © CFA Press ∙ Images are courtesy of the artist