Nadine Kanso – APRIL 2014

By Kate Hazell

As she prepares for her latest show, Dubai's most in-demand artist, designer and local style setter, Nadine Kanso, talks to Cherrypick about what keeps her creative juices flowing.

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Nadine Kanso has become an integral part of Dubai's developing fashion scene and not least because of her stand out style. The 45-year-old Lebanese artist and jewellery designer, who has been based in Dubai for 13 years, has exhibited her works all over the world, including Dubai's Cuadro Fine Art Gallery, London's Victoria & Albert Museum and has contributed to a series commissioned by Louis Vuitton that was later auctioned off by Bonham's. Kanso's photography and collage work typically explore the issues of identity in contemporary Arabs as well as reflecting on her native Lebanon while her jewellery line, Bil Arabi, uses Arabic calligraphy to create precious pieces. It's a marvel the mother-of-two has any time for anything else, let alone enjoy some spare time in the city she now calls home. But she does, and she's happy to share her secrets with Cherry Pick.


What do you see yourself as first and foremost; A photographer, artist or jewellery designer?

I would have to say I am all that! Maybe at one point in time I would have said artist-photographer, or designer but now I really am all. It is who I am and whether it's design or photography, it takes equal thinking time to be come up with a concept or an idea.

Have you always wanted to be an artist?

I always had creative penchant and loved design and fashion, but I never knew I would be where I am today. I always said to myself I cannot just go by life unnoticed, we are here to make things different in any way we can.

What characteristics make a piece of art yours?

My work is bold yet classic. Layers and contrast is something I feel is a trait I have in all of my work. I love the chic bling if I may say so myself too (laughs).

What inspires you about living in Dubai?

Inspiration comes from within, it has to do, of course, with people and places, but I think creativity can come from anywhere. That said, the evolution and contrast of Dubai has been a great inspiration to me.

What is it about Arabic calligraphy?

The form of the Arabic letters is a beauty on its own and is an art by itself. I love the shapes it creates and I love to take it to a different level.

What camera do you use and why?

I love Nikon, I've been using Nikon cameras since university. They've got great lenses.

Tell us your ‘Cherrypicked' Dubai?

I love to go eat some Lebanese beans (foul) and falafel on Beach Road when the weather is nice, at Al Arz. I also really like the small cafes around my area in Jumierah where I can have a coffee and be casual. I love Vivel, it's a hidden cafe in Jumeira located in the courtyard of a small building.

Where do you eat?

That would have to be La Petite Maison, the food is the best and always consistent, not to mention the team that works there, they are the best! …I have a soft spot for Teatro as well…

Describe your perfect day...

A day where my phone doesn't ring 100 times…I guess Friday is that day. I like to spend it with my two boys in the garden and have friends just drop by and chill. I love having an open house.

You're one of Dubai's most stylish designers, where are your fave places to shop?

Thank you! I just love to shop at s*uce, I can find all my cool pieces there. I buy TataNaka, Alexander Wang, Saccai …I love the selection they get, the pieces are different, the buying is different.

How would you describe your style?

It is a collage I guess…I'd say trendy yet chic…bold sometimes and daring, (and by daring, I don't mean cleavage— more neon collar and print).

What's the latest thing you bought?

Two small paintings of an Emirati artist I fell in love with. I got them at Cuadro Gallery and the artist is called Mohamad Ibrahim.

What's the best thing about living in this region?

This is my region and I'm so proud of what has been achieved in the UAE, I wish the rest of the Arab countries and the rest of the world could start thinking the same way and have innovation, peace and love. Living in Dubai gave me a sense of who I am and what I can do; it is a place where the sky really is the limit.

As someone who greatly contributes to the arts culture in Dubai, what's your response when people criticise the city and say that Dubai ‘lacks culture'?

At this point in time one can no longer say such a thing just for the sake of thinking they can, it would show that they lack culture themselves and it is such a cliché along with Dubai is fake! What is culture? You can't compare Dubai with other cultures; each place has its own culture as a product of having different histories. What has been done in the last 10 years is a big deal on all levels and especially the art scene. Dubai is on the map, full stop.

What art exhibitions and events should we be putting in our diaries for Feb/March 2014?

An amazing exhibition of museum calibre is now showing at Cuadro Art Gallery in DIFC. If you're travelling to Doha, Mona Hatoum's current exhibition at Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art should not to be missed. I know it's not in Dubai but she's an incredible artist. Art Dubai starts on March 19th and Design Days on March 17th are two of the most important art dates in the Dubai calendar.

What's on your agenda for 2014?

I have a showing of my latest jewellery collection, the Kaffak Collection, in March 4th at Bloomingdale’s and a show in Kuwait in March. “What If” a new body of work in photography and mixed media will be showing at Cuadro Gallery in April too. I also have a potential show in Hong Kong within the next few months although there is no date set yet. What I really need is a holiday!


(Images: Nadine Kanso, Bil Arabi bracelet new ‘Kaffak’ collection at Bloomingdale’s, Zakirah photography exhibition.)