Venice vibe proves perfect for rising star Lana Khayat’s city debut

The Lebanese-born artist is now set to show her most abstract and intricate work to date at Abu Dhabi Art 

Lana Khayat’s first art exhibition in Venice inevitably delivered a multitude of memorable moments, but perhaps one of the more unexpected ones was the sense of belonging she felt on arriving in this magical global art hub.

“When I landed in Venice, it was a bit surreal,” explained the Lebanese-born artist, who was in the city to participate in the international art fair at Palazzo Albrizzi Cappello. “Perhaps it was the slightly dreamy, ethereal free-spirited vibe there, but I immediately felt completely at home, while my work somehow seemed to be in harmony with Venice.” 

That free-spirit approach, together with other key traits, is something Lana traces back to her great-grandfather, the artist Mohamad Suleiman Khayat, whom she describes as instrumental in shaping her artistic development. 

“As a self-taught Damascene artist, he had exceptional creativity, continually reinventing himself and experimenting with a variety of mediums,” she said. “From painting on paper with watercolours, he moved on to wood, with the incredible work undertaken on the Syrian Ajami rooms a great example of his development. He was also fearless. If you look at the unusual but brilliant way he aligns leaf motifs in the Ajami rooms with calligraphy and geometry, you can tell that he was a real innovator and certainly not afraid to take risks.” 

That fearlessness has instilled in Lana the confidence to experiment in her own art with ease and joy, whether it’s in mindset or through the use of new mediums. In her art, she often steps back in time, finding herself drawn to motifs, colours and symbols from the Islamic art of époques gone by, which she melds with aspects of contemporary life. 

“I love incorporating elements of ancient Mesopotamian art, for example, and others from the Mongol Yuan dynasty, she explained. “Not everyone is aware that Islamic art had a major influence on Chinese porcelain, which is something that intrigues me and explains why there is a natural harmony when these influences are brought together.”

Lana finds herself constantly returning to many aspects of both artistic movements, from calligraphic to geometric elements, and especially the blue and white colour combinations or golden hues of the vast, expansive deserts. These are extracted, adapted, captured in oils and then added into her ever-evolving vocabulary.  

“Recently, I can see that my art is becoming more abstract,” she reflected. “I’m also experimenting more and working with new mediums, such as textiles and 3D printing, focusing on projects with new ideas, such as ‘seda salvaje’ flowers, and deconstructing the traditional forms I’ve studied, which I’m finding exciting.”

The natural world, or what Lana sometimes refers to as the ‘wilderness’ is another pivotal pull – so much so that she believes the description of it as a source of inspiration to be inadequate.

“I tend to think of nature as an abstract painting itself, rather than a source of inspiration, since the impact it has on my work is much weightier than this description implies,” she admitted. “I can honestly say that it’s as if nature becomes my work and the canvas my world, with the lines between both blurring or merging, whether we’re talking about the vast palette of colours or the ever-changing qualities of light.” 

Nature also evokes powerful childhood memories for Lana, since her parents used to take the family on walks through the Lebanese countryside and mountains. “In my work, I’m looking to give the landscapes I see a contemporary interpretation, playing with the light and nuances of colour, for example, which have always captivated me,” she explained.

A self-confessed introvert, Lana also believes that relaxing in nature inevitably, makes it easier to translate what she sees and hears on to her canvases.

“I’m not great with people and tend to stay inside my own bubble, so my art helps me to feel seen and heard – whole, even. It enables me to express myself, in the same way that ballet does, which I also enjoy,” she explained. “I think that being introspective allows me to convey emotions that are extremely raw and intense, too, and capture the essence of the landscapes I’m studying.” 

That intensity and rawness has helped bring Lana’s work into the spotlight on the global art scene, attracting attention and bringing recognition despite her comparatively young age.

Seda Salvage (3 Dimensional  seda salvaje flowers- 3d printing- 3d textile flowers)

Milestones to date include a group show at Saatchi Gallery in London and being the youngest contributing Lebanese artist at Artscoops’ Lebanon | Untitled, part of Middle East Week at Cromwell Place in June 2023. 

Lana is also especially proud of the time when the UAE’s Culture Minister invited her to take part in a programme of Islamic art at Christie’s in London. 

“I was delighted to have this opportunity, especially as the only non-emirate involved, since it gave me the chance to meet and obtain some fantastic advice from experts in the field of Islamic art and academia,” she said. 

She also has fond memories of her time spent working and studying in New York at the School of Visual Arts, visiting other museums, walking and, she adds with a smile, where she left a piece of her heart.

Venice is another city that will now have a place in Lana’s heart, both for its vibe and the opportunities it has brought her as an artist, enabling her to build bonds on the local art scene and establish relationships for the future. 

Next up is Abu Dhabi Art, a key fair taking place from November 22, 2023 – January 1, 2024, which is always a regional talking point. “I’m very fond of the emirate,” Lana acknowledged, with a smile, “and I’m really looking forward to this opportunity to show my latest work, which is more abstract and intricate, reflecting where I’ve arrived on my journey to date.”


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