From Dubai, with love

From Dubai, with love

Visual artist and jewellery designer Nadine Kanso's latest show celebrates the city she has made her home - Dubai. She looks forward to its ever-changing socio cultural landscape, while paying homage to the beginnings of the city

By Sujata Assomull

Published: Fri 6 May 2016, 12:00 AM

Last updated: Fri 6 May 2016, 2:00 AM

"Cultural Entrepreneur/Creative Director @Bil- Arabi/ Artist Photographer/Love Life Peace", is how Nadine Kanso's Instagram profile reads, and it's perhaps the best summation of this multi-talented artist. With her latest photography show, The Future of Yesterday opening at Cuadro Fine Art Gallery in DIFC just over a week ago, Nadine's strong aesthetic, drawn from her own life experience, is back un-der the radar.
Nadine was born in Beirut, at a time when Lebanon was going through a time of turbulence. Against this backdrop, she began studying Communication Arts and Advertising Design in her home country. She moved to Dubai over 16 years ago, and has since made it her home. She is all about being Arab, and very proud of it. One of her first projects was for Lon-don's Victoria and Albert Museum, for a group show called Arabise Me.
A photo graphy show, it incorporated her love of typography, as all her subjects carried placards with affirmations of being Arab written in calligraphy. It was in the same year that she started her jewellery brand Bil Arabi, known for its use of the Arabic alphabet with a modern twist. Bil Arabi design is clean and contemporary, yet packs a "bling bling" statement and is steeped in tradition.
Her jewellery brand has been a part of Design Miami, and Nadine is today known for her jewellery throughout the region and beyond, though she never re-ally turned her back on photography. She recently held a show called All the Love at La Cantine du Faubourg, and last week, opened another show, The Future of Yesterday at Cuadro, a gallery she has shown with regularly. The two back-to-backshows suggests that Bil Arabi's creative di-rector wants to position herself as a visual artist more than a jewellery designer.
Says Nadine, "The show in La Cantine du Faubourg is more of a retrospective in a way, not fully, but it had several bodies of works; it happened that the timing was close to my solo show at Cuadro. Things happen for a reason... I realise not a lot of people know me as an artist".
There is no question that Nadine has become more known for her work in the fashion industry than as a visual art-ist, but she clearly enjoys having a foot in both worlds. No matter her medium, Nadine ensures she makes her opinion on social and cultural matters known.
"Photography takes longer thinking, research and production; the evolution of the story needs time to be ready. Jew-ellery is more active and it's a day-to-day interaction; the process in many cases is faster as it is part of the fashion industry," Nadine says about her dual roles.
Nadine and her brand an important part of the region's fashion industry, and she's always on the best-dressed lists. Just the day before the opening of her The Future of Yesterday show, she won the Grazia Middle East Style Award for Best Jewellery Designer. She compliments her glam rock style with a gracious personality, so it is no wonder she is a favourite with the fashion glossies. Truly well-mannered and always well-dressed, it's a refreshing change among the fashion set.
The Future of Yesterday is all about Dubai, a city of constant change, a city with a spirit that is alive, a city that welcomes all. It took seven years of work to put up this show. "The idea of this body of work relates to the city, its dynamics of growth, its constant change and evolution before our eyes. Its contrasts shows in these structures, it is building a dream, building a future, and the show is my appreciation and understanding of all of that," reveals Nadine.
She uses collage, and of course, typography, making this a visually layered show. "The exhibits are mixed media and a one-off piece. Collage is a medium to tell a story using layers - the images were cut to give parallels of the story of Dubai, the contrast it carries, and the change that is a constant element." She works with several cameras, but blacks and whites are central to her process, to give her work a feel of nostalgia, and thus all her larger pieces are in black and white.
"The coloured images are smaller sizes and the collage is cut-out circles from the book of His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum - The Vision (Arabic version) to highlight that ambition, vision, future and change is all about leadership and the ability to make a better society and place."
This show is a statement of Nadine's belief in Dubai. "Dubai is in an evolution on a daily basis, and has a growth spiral like no other; it is a phenomenon that we are living and we are part of its history - this is one of the key message and concepts of this show." In the future, the de-signer hopes to do more projects abroad so that she can take her message to the international stage. Though with most pieces selling fast (with her larger prints selling for US$3,000 and smaller ones for US$1,500), it is doubtful this show will be able to travel.
"We need to be proud. The Arab world has made great contributions to the world in the past, and we need to be part of cur-rent history to remind the world that we have great things to share and talk about, other than the political events that are happening around us in this region, taking us back to the days of the jahiliyah." (The Future of Yesterday by Nadine Kanso, at Cuadro Fine Art Gallery, DIFC, till the end of June.)

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