Amal Dagher on Nature’s Inspirational Qualities

The multi-disciplinary Lebanese artist talks to Artscoops about the infinite possibilities that the natural world offers for storytelling through art.

What first prompted your interest in art and when did you decide that it was what you wanted to focus on?

I’ve been interested in art as long as I can remember – certainly ever since I was a kid – including details such as the many kinds of shapes out there. It was for this reason that I decided to study the arts.

You cite nature as among your sources of inspiration. What aspects of the natural world do you find particularly inspiring and how do you transmit these elements onto your canvases?

Everything about nature inspires me, from shapes to colours. A painting brings together a mix of these, combined with lines. As artists, we give meaning to them all in the way they are done and then come undone.

You are known to utilise a variety of materials (paint, drawing, collage etc) rather than a single source. How do you decide which material to use to develop a concept or idea? Does the concept come first or the choice of material?

Certainly, there is always a concept and a story to tell, which develops and changes as I work. Choosing which materials to use comes spontaneously, rather than otherwise, depending on what I want to express. I use different surfaces and informal structures for what they are and nothing more.

A scholarship from the French government enabled you to further your studies in plastic arts at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts (ENSBA), Paris. What added dimension did this opportunity bring to your artistic development?

These kinds of opportunities to learn and discover new things are always a joy. 

Are there any artists whose work really resonates with you and if so, can you tell us why?

I love modern art. I especially admire contemporary artists, particularly their reasoning and philosophy.

Multi-tasking is something of a gift! What process do you adopt that enables you to work on multiple paintings simultaneously?

I have always worked on several papers or canvas at the same time. I start one drawing and finish with another - that’s simply how it is.

The Covid-19 lockdowns had a significant effect on the art world, like so many other fields. How did you accommodate the crisis and did it affect your practice – your way of working, subject matter or themes, for example?

I didn’t have a lot of work during the Covid-19 period so I took the opportunity to paint and prepare my sculptures. Doing this was a way of keeping fully focused during the pandemic.

Your work has been shown extensively in Lebanon and abroad, in both collective and solo shows. What do you regard as your career highlight to date?

I think there are a lot of things that still remain to be shown and expressed.

You’ve described your artistic process as in a state of perpetual experimentation. How do you think it has evolved over the years and at what juncture would you say you have now arrived?

It remains a continuous work in progress, in fact, involving a search for forms of shadows and light.

You talk about inviting audiences to play, to look and think about your work. What do you hope they will take away with them from viewing it?

Certainly, I invite them to look; after all, how can we look without wanting to discover in things what we are told must be there, instead of simply what is there?

What are you currently working on and what projects do you have in the pipeline?

I currently have multiple projects in the works and was recently part of an exhibition in Beiteddine, organised by Saleh Barakat. In parallel with my painting and sculpting, I also work in publicity as a production designer and art director and I recently worked on an ad for the Bulgari appartements in Dubai, among other projects. 

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