In an attempt to delve into the private universe of artists and art collectors, Selections is exploring the sanctuaries of various men and women, some living and others who have passed away, and shedding light on places that remain out of bounds for the majority of people. We examine how these artists and art collectors live, what surrounds them and how they go about thinking, dreaming and creating. In order to get as personal as possible, we came up with customised questions that we then presented to each of these men and women (and in the case of those who passed away to their children), tailoring our queries to the way each of them lives and goes about creating his or her work. In parallel, we shot a short film, which you can view on our website, that navigates each artist and art collector’s sanctuary. The film allows viewers to get up close and personal with artists and art collectors who seldom open their personal space up to the world. A fascinating artistic journey into the hearts and minds of some of the region’s most intriguing people.
Nevine Bouez uses a great variety of materials and media for her work, most notably clay. The Lebanese artist did her Master’s in fine arts at the University of Oxford and has since had exhibits in London, Beirut and Dubai, among other international cities. Her most recognisable works include singular sculptural vases that resemble tree trunks. In 2017, she won the Audience Choice Award at the Sursock Museum’s Salon d’Automne for her two towering, hand-built ceramic sculptures. True collector’s pieces, her works now grace private residences in various cities across the globe.
Do you think that art is a practice or a calling?
Every person is unique and so is their journey. I was naturally drawn from a very young age towards artistic activities such as drawing and painting. My mother immediately framed my pieces and hung them on the wall. This triggered my eagerness to continue along this path throughout my childhood. Several family members were also painters whom I visited regularly and who certainly inspired me. Over the years, I delved into etching, interior decoration, metal sculpting, intricate porcelain design and hand-built ceramics.
Is creativity something you learn?
We all have different creative aptitudes. They can manifest in the form of an inner calling at any age, also exposure can trigger an infinity of creative possibilities. Each one of us creates an artistic expression of emotions lived in a particular context.
Where does your artistic side come from?
The general family atmosphere was conducive to the freedom of artistic expression. I was surrounded by a generation of artists in Egypt exploring and living different styles, periods and schools of painting and sculpture. Beyond artistic pieces, I was surrounded by free-minded and artsy personalities, to whom creativity was a way of life.
Are you inspired by anything in particular?
Everything can trigger inspiration, like an interesting shape, a texture, a colour or a feeling. A simple moment can domino into a string of ideas. My aspiration is to reinstate the bonding between human beings and earthly elements in perfect communion, through artistic intention.
What are the emotions and experiences that mould your work?
As soon as I touch my raw clay I have the urge to bring it to life. This brings up my feelings of the moment. For example, emotions related to hope in fulfilling one’s potential and expression. A constant feeling of gratitude and intense connection to earth accompanies me though the building process.
Is art a means of escape for you? What do you try to reflect in your art?
My creative moment is a deep state of contemplation that carries me into a dimension of infinite possibilities. I try to highlight the importance of perseverance and of giving one’s best when the going gets tough. I strive to express the transformative and healing power of Mother Earth and human nature alike. In the “Bliss Collection,” presented at the Sursock Museum Salon d’Automne, my multi-faceted and three-dimensional pieces were conceived to infuse light through the cracks of our Lebanese gloom. Out of every crack comes about the Lebanese wizardry of unsurpassed and transformative ability to soar. In every fracture there is light.
What is your objective when making a particular piece?
I follow my flow of ideas. My main objective is to express my innermost beliefs and positive aspiration, to trigger various emotions in the viewer with every texture, colour, shape and detail. Using traditional clay with a contemporary twist, I express these openings through broken lines, tension in the structure, vibrant or subdued colours. My lines flow from delicate to bold and thick to thin. I overlap clay and overly glaze to deepen the visual expression of my work. I aim to immerse the spectator in an interactive experience with each sculpture. I approach every new piece as if I were pouring into it my very essence.
How does an idea begin?
My feelings are in a constant state of gestation. No beginning and no end. One idea leads to another. The moment I touch the clay sparks an unexpected development and every time I do so it’s a fresh experimental process. Every piece teaches me something new. It is as if a creative energy takes over, and it becomes an exciting adventure where creation and discovery go hand in hand. In its natural form clay is malleable and its plasticity makes for a freely flowing creative voyage. I sense limitless possibilities as I twist and turn or push and release. The tactile contact with clay feels very earthy and is physically demanding, so I feel very connected to where we come from through this synergy.
What sculpture did you admire the most and why?
Every potter has his own journey, an innermost expression of his beliefs. All sculptures are significant and each piece has a soul as it is an extension of an intrinsic part of the artist. It is an echo of one’s self.
Have you regretted selling any piece of your work?
Buyers were so grateful, sending me pictures of the pieces they chose in their homes. It is also a wonderful surprise to see them in synergy with such varied surroundings in traditional, modern or contemporary architectural interiors. Certainly every piece is made from the heart and holds a special emotional significance, but I always feel so happy when they find their way into the heart of other people’s homes.
Describe your studio practice.
Anywhere I decide to work becomes a sanctuary, especially surrounded by nature, sunlight, calmness, under the watchful eye of my cat.
At the 2017 Salon d’Automne, you won the Audience Choice Award at the Sursock Museum. Tell us about that moment. Did it change your work in any way?
I feel blessed to have people from all over greeting me and sharing this special moment. Every gathering of beautiful souls is an enlivened inspiration for my work and marks new beginnings. It is a revived wish to share and communicate.
What part of your journey has been challenging and transforming?
Every part has had its challenges, which were also opportunities to grow and be resourceful in the creation of new shapes and ideas, to express the feeling of the moment and especially working through them and hanging on until they’re resolved.
How does art affect culture?
The arts have obviously left their mark on past and present cultures. Art is the best possible window into another culture. It is the expression of individual and community life. Art is communication, it allows people from different cultures to communicate with each other. It is a universal language across cultures. Some of my themed collections are intended to illustrate hope and resilience in the face of socio-economic challenges such as in Lebanon. Wholeness and strength can transform brokenness and surpass it. Our connectedness with the environment can inspire a genuine shift leading to conscious action.
Does your family support your artistic endeavours?
Yes, my family totally supports my artistic endeavours and that’s what gives the most energy. What better motivation than having your children’s cheers?
Is art an obsession for you or a profession?
Art is my way of life. It is all-inclusive.
A version of this article appeared in print in Selections, Sanctuaries #47.