Lawrie Shabibi Tethys Nabil Nahas
Lawrie Shabibi: Tethys by Nabil Nahas
30.10.2023
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Along with its reopening, the Lawrie Shabibi gallery in Dubai has launched Tethys, a solo exhibition by famous Lebanese-American artist Nabil Nahas. It displays his latest artworks that transport viewers into another world brimming with vivid colours and tactile experiences. The show will be open to the public until 5 January 2024.

Installation view of Nabil Nahas’s solo exhibition ‘Tethys’ at Lawrie Shabibi, 30 Oct 2023 – 5 Jan 2024. Courtesy of the artist and Lawrie Shabibi.
Photography by Ismail Noor of Seeing Things.

The exhibition’s title refers to the history of the Tethys Sea, a body of water that played a crucial role in shaping the geological and biological evolution of the Earth. The sea was situated in what is now the Mediterranean region (Middle East) and parts of Asia. Tethys was also a Greek goddess, the spouse of the Titan Oceanus and the mother of the river gods and the Oceanids.

Installation view of Nabil Nahas’s solo exhibition ‘Tethys’ at Lawrie Shabibi, 30 Oct 2023 – 5 Jan 2024. Courtesy of the artist and Lawrie Shabibi.
Photography by Ismail Noor of Seeing Things.

Nahas gets his inspiration from his Mediterranean heritage and reconnects to the places of his childhood, Lebanon and Egypt (where he resided for the first ten years of his life), and a deep affinity for the human soul. Taking cues from celestial and marine phenomena, he creates engrossing paintings that evoke a sense of biomorphic and organic forms. Nahas’s art is based on abstract geometry and three-dimensional explorations. He plays with scale to invite spectators to examine microcosmic worlds within the canvas. Alongside his Fractal series, the artist’s oeuvre includes vivid depictions of cedars, olive trees, and palms. 

Installation view of Nabil Nahas’s solo exhibition ‘Tethys’ at Lawrie Shabibi, 30 Oct 2023 – 5 Jan 2024. Courtesy of the artist and Lawrie Shabibi.
Photography by Ismail Noor of Seeing Things.

Nahas’ Landscapes collection comprises artworks which depict the trees in a way magnifying their presence. His cedars loom large in the viewer’s gaze, but when it comes to his olive trees and palms, his focus is on their trunks’ textures. Nahas uses a range of emotions by alternating between bright and sombre colours throughout various stages of this series. Gold paint symbolises the brightness of happy memories, while through using black, he conveys a sense of weight or depth symbolising the gravity of dark memories. Four of his eight largest paintings from the Landscapes series evoke strong emotions begotten by the Beirut explosion that happened in August 2020. These works delve into grief, shock, resilience, hope, and anger related to the tragedy and can be a healing and cathartic process for Nahas.

Installation view of Nabil Nahas’s solo exhibition ‘Tethys’ at Lawrie Shabibi, 30 Oct 2023 – 5 Jan 2024. Courtesy of the artist and Lawrie Shabibi.
Photography by Ismail Noor of Seeing Things.

Among the distinctive techniques employed by the artist in his Fractal art pieces is the encrusted technique that allows the construction of a three-dimensional surface on a canvas. Nahas builds up layers of paint and materials; some of them protrude while others recede. It mimics the underwater craters or geological formations and organic growth on the seafloor. The artist uses blues and greens, the colours of the ocean, while earthy tones and metallic accents help him convey the shimmering and reflective nature of water.

Installation view of Nabil Nahas’s solo exhibition ‘Tethys’ at Lawrie Shabibi, 30 Oct 2023 – 5 Jan 2024. Courtesy of the artist and Lawrie Shabibi.
Photography by Ismail Noor of Seeing Things.

About the artist

Nabil Nahas (b. 1949, Beirut, Lebanon) obtained his BFA degree from Louisiana State University (Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA) in 1971. In 1973, he graduated from Yale University (New Haven, Connecticut, USA) with an MFA degree. 

Although the list of things which inspire Nahas include traditional Western abstract painting and Islamic art (especially its geometric motifs and decorative patterns), the main source of his inspiration is nature. To create his art pieces, he uses organic materials, such as seashells and starfish. He casts them in acrylic paint and mounts them on a canvas. His more recent artworks portray the trees native to Lebanon.

Nabil Nahas, Untitled, 2023. Acrylic and pumice on canvas. 45.7 x 45.7 x 15.2 cm.
Courtesy of the artist and Lawrie Shabibi. Photography by Farzad Owrang.

Nahas has headed numerous solo shows, such as Grounded in the Sky (Château La Coste, France, 2023); Nabil Nahas (Ben Brown Fine Arts, Hong Kong, 2018); Nabil Nahas (Saleh Barakat Gallery, Beirut, Lebanon, 2016); Nabil Nahas: Pheonix Dactylifera (Ben Brown Fine Arts, London, UK, 2014); Nabil Nahas (Lawrie Shabibi, Dubai, UAE, 2013); and others. Among the group exhibitions in which Nahas has participated are Kan Ya Makan (Galerie Tanit, Beirut, 2022); Infinite Geometry (Tate Modern, London, 2021); Currently Published (Vivian Horan Fine Art, New York, 2019); A Century in Flux: Highlights from the Barjeel art Foundation (Barjeel Art Foundation, Sharjah, UAE, 2018); XXV Bienal de São Paulo 2002 (São Paulo, Brazil); and many others.

Nabil Nahas, Untitled, 2023. Acrylic and pumice on canvas. 45.7 x 45.7 x 15.2 cm.
Courtesy of the artist and Lawrie Shabibi. Photography by Farzad Owrang.

The artist’s works have been added to a number of esteemed collections including Tate Modern (London, UK); the British Museum (London); the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, NY, USA); the Vorhees Zimmerli Museum, Rutgers University (New Brunswick, New Jersey, USA); Barjeel Foundation (Sharjah, UAE); Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art (Doha, Qatar); and others. 

You can get more information about the Tethys exhibition on its official web page

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