Nabil Nahas (Lebanese, b. 1949)
signed 'Nabil Nahas' (on the reverse)
acrylic and pumice on canvas
59 7/8 x 72in. (152 x 183cm.)
Painted in 2009
Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner.

Brought to you by

Bibi Naz Zavieh
Bibi Naz Zavieh

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Lot Essay

Considered to be a pioneer in the Lebanese art scene, Nabil Nahas is perhaps best-known for his Fractals works, of which the present work is a magnificent example. He has been developing this series on and off since the mid-1990s, when he began to obliterate the familiar outline of starfish that he was fixing to his canvases at the time, heavily encrusting them with a ground pumice and acrylic mix and finishing them in psychedelic tones. Like much of Nahas' work, the technique and meaning come hand in hand. The term fractal refers to the theory of fractal geometry, formulated in the mid-1970s by Benoit Mandelbrot. Mandelbrot described random events in nature deviating from the ideal Euclidean geometry, the rough and fragmented geometric shapes which can be split into parts, each of which is at least approximately a reduced size copy of the whole. According to Mandelbrot, things typically considered to be 'rough', a 'mess' or 'chaotic', like clouds or shorelines, actually had a degree of order. Nabil saw the parallels with his own work as his Fractals paintings also represent a kind of asymmetrical equilibrium. As a result, this relationship between order and disorder continues to be a recurrent theme in the artist's work across all the different bodies of work.

The Fractals themselves vary considerably in size and colour, evoking a variety of scales and moods. The smallest are like windows onto an underwater world of coral reefs while the larger works, breath-taking in their complexity, simply overpower the viewer. On the one hand they look like encrusted surfaces of leviathans and on the other they resemble irregularities that are visible only on an unimaginably minute scale- the false colour images of a scanning electron microscope. The subtle variations in tone and colour that ripple across the mottled surfaces of these Fractals is both like the dappled light of tropical seas and like the mineral deposits in a slice of marble.

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