The Art World of Nabil Kanso

The art of Nabil Kanso presents the viewer with an apocalyptic vision and a sense of awareness of the current turmoil afflicting humanity. His monumental paintings reflect bursts of energy and creativity. Strange figures and symbols merge with abstraction and figural imagery to reveal an astonishing vision of life and a provocative sense of imagination. In describing a visit to his studio in Atlanta, Catherine Fox, art critic of the Atlanta Journal/constitution, wrote: Walking around was like taking a tour of Dante’s Inferno. With agitated brushstrokes and lurid oranges, Kanso has produced a roomful of frightening images reminiscent of late Goya’s mural, all the more menacing because they are over 7 feet tall"

Kanso’s painting "Lebanon" reflects the artist’s anguish and response to the torment and suffering of the souls in Lebanon. It took him more than 3 months to paint the 28 feet wide by 10 feet tall painting in which two leaping women strive for unity. On the left a fallen maiden wrapped with the Lebanese flag is flanked by a roaring horse and a Druze sheikh staring out from the picture plane as if to confront the viewers and illicit responsibility from them.

The painting forcefully evokes the agonizing division of the country and the dreadful bitterness, isolation and helplessness of the people. "I wanted to go beyond the mere picturesque in order to reveal the hypnotic reality of the nightmarish situation." Kanso recalls with pride "The wonderful memories of the summers we used to spend in my father’s native village, Moukhtara. We learned so much about the soil, the beauty of the land, and the warmth, affection, and integrity of the people. There was a great feeling of love and harmony among the various denominations. It is very sad that the country is locked in furious combat, but harmony will return because nothing can destroy hope."

To experience Kanso’s art "depends on the viewer willingness to cross a certain bridge to journey into his visual universe." In discussing his art, Kanso points out that "the aesthetic foundation of a work is reflected by the ideas that are transmitted through the medium of expression. Each viewer has a perceptual screen that filters and stimulates particular events and experiences. It’s the artist’s spirit and imaginative capacity that transforms those experiences into a particular vision of reality, which in a work of art forms the quintessence of the emotional substance of the work."

Our World, September 1984, Los Angeles, CA