The Custodian: Artistic Visionaries: Yasmina Nysten

My personal connection with Basel Dalloul is based on a long-term family friendship. This connection was made through the artistic community within the Lebanese social scene and has deepened over the years. As an artist, this connection holds great personal significance, as it not only provides support for my work but also a sense of trust and understanding. Basel has been one of the main figures in my life who was able to see my work for its worth from the very beginning even though he didn’t engage with it immediately. There were years in which we were close and he only seemed to be monitoring and participating silently to my evolution. Up until two years ago, when perhaps he had seen that enough work had been put in and the actual aspiration to be a life long artist was manifesting within me. But who knows what truly lurks within the boundless recesses of a mind like Basel’s. Like a mystical force of nature, he has managed to maintain a perfect veneer or mystery to me in spite of the many years of our close acquaintance. That’s when he purchased my first piece. Honestly, that was a milestone for me. It was one of those moments in which I felt that I must be on the right path.

His understanding of the art world and dedication to promoting art from the Arab world has undeniably made me look at, just the breadth of culture that exists in the region. When I was first taken through the foundation, I was mostly in awe of the dedication Arab artists have had to their own culture, to celebrating, demonstrating or criticising their land, people, or socio-political climate. So many voices, with statements or expressing such distinct emotions. As a Lebanese artist living in the US, I felt even more torn between two worlds when I saw all this work. I don’t know why that is exactly but after some involved inner searching, I think perhaps it is born out of needing to belong or rather, knowing where you belong.

This is what pushed me in the end to finally reconciling myself and owning up to the fact that I am a cross cultural artist. In the end it is the foundation that facilitated this deduction.

Having a relationship with Basel is as general as it is specific. That is not a derogatory statement. I’ll elaborate for the sake of clarity. Basel has a certain“superhero” quality, like Superman just flew in from Krypton and before you know it, he is off again, vanishing into thin air. This seems like an exaggeration, but I think anyone who knows him would agree. And just like being around anyone of your everyday superheros, those moments seem special, dilated, a minute feels like a solid one well spent. Like out of all the places and timezones he could be, he’s here, so it must be personal. Yet the conversation never seems to topple over into the type of specifics that turn any conversation into white noise. It’s kind of brilliant. Moreover, having the foundation’s support has provided me with a backbone of bonafides and a core of credibility. Specially in the case of my latest exhibition Artful Crimes at Mark Hachem gallery in June of 2023.

Even though I am not in Beirut all year round, when I am, being in the artistic community that I’ve had for years now, which rotates around many of the foundation’s artists, is a type of organic exchange/ collaborative happening / real life art piece unto itself. In a way, the foundation holds us all together, the rope that links us all. It’s a beautiful thing that the unspoken connector which, at days end, gives meaning to our work on a spacial and temporal scale, is this foundation, whose head is also our very good friend. To see oneself in a meaningful context is rarer than one thinks. In early 2023, Basel commissioned three paintings from me including a portrait of himself and my mother based on a photograph he had given me and two portraits of his dogs. Within a few days of receiving this commission, I found myself face to face with Basel and my mother in my studio. After a long stretch of painting strangers, it was good to be in the company of my most familiar faces. I had left that portrait on the wall up until my trip back to Beirut. It amuses me to contemplate how the seemingly all knowing figure that is Basel might have wisely anticipated the secondary sentimental effect that having the faces of my matron as well as my patron would have on my sensitive artistic psyche.

The foundation has allowed me to see the value in my voice as an artist within the diaspora, how any set of circumstances can be of real value. I have collaborated with artists in the past and done paintings with an artistic collaborator. This was a setback when it came to exhibiting. Nine out of 10 questions asked about those works were concerned with this collaboration. It felt like the work was no longer being seen, which was a disappointment. Having been exposed to Western art and culture, Basel didn’t question it, and saw the work for its inherent value and carried on progressively. This provided me with a much needed relief from what often amounts to a sea of doubt and doubters.

Now that my work is part of the foundation, I feel like it is part of a wider cultural lineage. This means that I feel like I have the responsibility to keep this trainrunning forward. That my work is to be seen within the context of a cultural progression. This is in itself the basis of wanting to break new barriers.

Don’t pretend. Be straightforward. Challenge yourself to be as true to yourself as you are to what you are putting out. Make your work integral to your life. It takes all of you to be an artist. I feel like that’s what I would say to anyone who would want to be part of the larger picture, to be seen by the people whose eyes are open.

I can only hope for a prolific and involved relationship with the Foundation. Knowing Basel, I have to say that he is a person that builds relationships on a solid basis and is very selective about his surroundings. Basel and therefore the Foundation are very much built on loyalty. From where I stand, I can see a bright future and a lot of potential. The specifics will come. For now, it’s a matter of thriving for higher levels and letting the muse know where to find you.

Presently, my works are available on view at the Foundation. There is a project in the works with the Dalloul Art Foundation although I’m not at liberty topublicise the specifics just yet. Stay tuned!

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