“Art has never existed in a frame,” Kafr-El-Sheikh-native artist Yasser Nabaiel strips away social norms to ignite the liberated nude art movement in Egypt.
Every artist undresses his subject, whether human or still life.
I know what you’re thinking; we are a nation that frowns upon everything related to femaleness, from bra straps to skinny jeans, and even that 2ossa (bangs) peering out a hijab. We’re quick to panic, judge, and casually order the beauty and essence of the female body to be covered with 'candy wrap' because nobody will find exposed 'sweets' desirable and the 'world will end' etc. You know the story too well already - although starting to visualise people as food sounds quite alarming.
Now, I have nothing against proper conservative clothing. Or candy. You don’t need to follow into the footsteps of Miley Cyrus and #FreeTheNipple in the middle of Gamaet El Dewal to prove a point, and this Egyptian painter agrees.
“Egyptian society still has a long way to go before they could digest this type of art,” shares 46-year-old Egyptian artist Yasser Nabaiel, who was born in a small town in Kafr El Sheikh, and took off to Switzerland around 10 years ago to be as close as possible to the art movement, after receiving his Master’s degree in Fine Arts in the late 90s.
“I remember when I used to stare at a copy of a landscape painting, which someone had gifted my father. I was 5 years old at the time,” he reminisces. Nabaiel was encouraged by his art teacher, who would collect all of his doodles – considering that he didn't even own a sketch book at the time – and hang them in his own room as motivation.
I’ve been painting nude people since I was quite young. I’m not with it or against, I simply don’t care.
His philosophy has grown to explore new ideas, and to experiment with new material. By new materials, Nabaiel isn’t aiming for a fresh new canvas or a new shade of purple, but something much more raw. “My latest exhibition in Lausanne, Switzerland, had various paintings covered with asphalt; hence, its title Asphalt,” the artist explains, adding that it was inspired by Algerian-French philosopher Jagues Derrida and his book Deconstruction.
When it comes to the nude, Nabaiel summed up how he feels about it in a nutshell; “I’ve been painting nude people since I was quite young. I’m not with it or against, I simply don’t care.”
Everything in this world is art somehow. Art has never existed in a frame.
Between exhibiting his art in the United States and here in Egypt, Nabaiel had been teaching in the faculty of Fine Arts before he quit almost 20 years ago. However, he never gave up on the parallel profession, and continues to teach an array of courses all over the globe.
“My relationship with my students is so strong, so I usually follow up to see how they’ve turned out in the art scene. They always make me proud and push me forward,” he adds. “I think Egypt will continue to nurture great artists, and not just in this specific field. All we need is support, yet I strongly believe that one day we will receive the appreciation we deserve.”
Heads up! If you ever find yourself around Geneva or France by the end of the year, make sure you pass by Nabaiel’s upcoming creations. His only condition is that you check your social restrictions and prejudice at the door.
And you can give yourself some mental practice by scrolling through some of his most striking nude pieces.
"It's cold outside. Bearded skulls surround me, and nothing is left within."
"'Life always wins', she said. Then she crumbled with brand new ashes."
"A black cross is carrying us to the inevitable unknowing of shining darkness."
"The tree of knowledge is good and evil. Your milk is burning, and your chest has become a dead star."