Through two distinct artistic methodologies within his practice, both equally inspired by nature, Lebanese artist Nabil Nahas began documenting his surroundings through a fusion of the geographical, cultural and spiritual area between the Mediterranean and Mesopotamia. By interpreting water and land, the artist draws on various organic elements to critically inform his visual imagery. Digressing from the almost lifelike reality of his widely respected Fractal Series, the present work hails from the latter part of the artist’s career and is part of his more rare series of Tree Paintings. Shedding light on the artist’s painterly skill, Nahas takes inspiration from the olive tree, date palm and cedar tree that is popularly included in Qur’anic imagery. His unusual landscape scenes however are imbued with profound uniqueness as they come to fruition through the amalgamation of abstract imagery and dynamic textural surfaces. The beautifully composed harmony of colour, form and texture enable the artist to translate the entirety of his vision onto the canvas.
Deeply rooted in Lebanese imagery, his native homeland is an important influence for this particular series. In the present work, the artist composes a medley of semi-abstract forms on the canvas. Through the meticulous manipulation of pigments, the artist approaches his landscape paintings in an unusual way. Rather than the hyper-real, expanse of scenery that tends to be the norm of landscape painting, the artist eschews all discernible imagery in favour of creating a more dynamic, intimate account of nature, critically expressed through abstract forms. Replicating the trees from his own garden, the artist takes inspiration from their unique characteristics and visual complexities. The slender form of the palm, the majestic cedar and the complex branches of the olive tree are investigated deeply by the artist as he reduces his subjects to beautiful shapes across the canvas. Through these simplified forms, Nahas looks to fill the gap between reality and the imaginary.
Painting at such a large scale, Nahas composes his visual imagery through the thick application of paint. While this body of works may not have the three-dimensionality of the rest of his oeuvre, the present work highlights the artist’s ability to beautifully orchestrate colour across his canvases. The dark brown panel which traverses the central portion of the picture plane represents the trunk of the tree, while a few discernible branches are scattered across the surface. The canvas, whose autumnal colours add a significant sense of warmth to the canvas, incorporate dark, rich earthy tones which are contrasted by the pale blues and whites dispersed around the canvas. The contrast adds a sense of depth and dimensionality to the composition. Nahas seems to fuse his two different techniques into one work. Favouring a two-dimensional surface, yet creating depth and texture through the careful articulation of his paints he attempts to reference the Biblical and geographical history of his surroundings. The artist’s inclusion of gold leaf on the canvas highlights the more sophisticated qualities of his technique. This rich sense of ornamentation is commonly seen across the canvases of many artists, what is unique in the case of Nahas however, is the way in which the polarities of his two techniques fuse in this present work. A technique employed by the artist since the early 2000s, these works shed light on Nahas’ mature painterly aesthetic.