Art

Artistic Spring: Youssef Nabil

I love my country, but I just wanted peace of mind honestly. I moved to the West even if all my inspiration comes from Egypt, and it was harder than what I thought. Here you can talk about anything you want.

Interview by Matteo Lonardi - matteolonardiphoto@gmail.com Photos courtesy of Youssef Nabil Portrait by Matteo Lonardi
Portrait by Matteo Lonardi

Portrait by Matteo Lonardi

 

Youssef was born in Cairo where his whole family still lives. After one of his shows in Cairo in the late nineties the French Counsel invited him to dinner and offered him a sponsored residency in France. He has become a world renowned fine art photographer.

Youssef takes his inspiration from Egyptian early cinema of the 1930’s and 40’s. While at first sight his work could seem influenced by an orientalist aesthetic, it is soon clear that the level of psychological complexity in his hand-painted self-portrait series brings the viewer to a place of universal understanding that transcends culture and place. His orientalist environment is in constant tension with the complexity of his characters making his pieces a subtle criticism to the leading western-framed aesthetics.

Self Portrait with Broken Doll Courtesy of  Youssef Nabil

Self Portrait with Broken Doll Courtesy of Youssef Nabil

His studio in Harlem is surprisingly tidy. African jazz plays from the radio. He makes tea on the stove and looks with inquisitive eyes. He said that since he was a child he has been obsessed with death. “The idea of watching a tale of love with all these beautiful glamorous stars and knowing that they were not here anymore, that they died, made me see life differently from an early age” he said. Nabil’s work has funneled a lot of attention in the international art scene. Through his artistic practice he has successfully critiqued the notion of orientalism, he has avoided commenting on openly political issues fostering a subtler universal message. “All my inspiration comes from Egypt” he said, “I always felt I am a visitor in New York, in Paris, in Egypt. I know that we are all going to die and that we are visitors. In my self-portraits I speak about this sense of displacement”. By focusing on themes that can be understood by anyone Nabil has communicated something that goes past his identity.

Sweet Temptation Courtesy of  Youssef Nabil

Sweet Temptation Courtesy of Youssef Nabil

Cinema Self Portrait Courtesy of  Youssef Nabil

Cinema Self Portrait Courtesy of Youssef Nabil

Amani by Window Courtesy of  Youssef Nabil

Amani by Window Courtesy of Youssef Nabil

Lonely Pasha Courtesy of  Youssef Nabil

Lonely Pasha Courtesy of Youssef Nabil

Self Portrait Vicennes Courtesy of  Youssef Nabil

Self Portrait Vicennes Courtesy of Youssef Nabil

Self Portrait with Botticelli Courtesy of  Youssef Nabil

Self Portrait with Botticelli Courtesy of Youssef Nabil

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