Introduction to Nissa Raad
After a previous article on various Jordanian artists and specialty stores in Amman, I am very excited to present an interview with Princess Nissa Raad, a Jordanian artist, and mother of three. I purchased one of her pictures recently and also wanted to talk with her about her personal motivation, her artworks, the art scene in Jordan, and of course, how Covid-19 affected her current (art) life. If you don’t know her, yet and are interested to know more about an amazing, female Jordanian artist, please read on.
The Interview with Nissa Raad
Dear Nissa, thank you for taking the time to answer some questions about yourself and your art. As everyone is currently at home due to Covid-19, I appreciate you answered my questions via E-Mail.
First of all, I would like to know more about your personal motivation to get into art. I am aware that you were influenced by your grandmother, the well-known Fahrelnissa Zeid, but I am interested in how you found your way into art and especially painting.
It’s difficult for me to discuss my art without expressing how much my grandmother’s work has affected my own. She was definitely the most significant influence on me, as I grew up surrounded by her colourful, expressive art. From a very young age she encouraged me to paint freely and expressively, and growing up it always remained a passion of mine. When my children were younger, I didn’t have much time for art but luckily I’ve managed to revisit it professionally and I’m enjoying it immensely. A person needs to pursue their passions in order to feel fulfilled and truly happy.
You have a diverse international background, a Royal one in fact, with a grandmother from Turkey, Grandfather from Iraq, your father born in Germany, and your mom being Swedish. You were raised, and grew up mainly in Jordan, and studied in the US and the UK. How does this multi-cultural background reflect in your images?
My Turkish connection comes from my late grandmother who herself came from a family of prominent artists. Turkey’s rich cultural heritage has always inspired me and I’m very drawn to Ottoman history. My Swedish roots on the other hand take me back to nature, along with a love for simplicity, ‘freshness’ and minimalism. However, being born and raised in Jordan, I feel thoroughly Jordanian, and I always try to infuse a touch of ‘Arabness’ in my art. I definitely feel fortunate to have these various influences in my life, as a person and as an artist, and I suppose there are elements of all of them in my art.
What do you think determines your style as an artist and how has it evolved over time? Are you still on the search for your own profile?
I have a background in urban design which is why the majority of my works are of urban landscapes. Amman is often referred to as the “White City”, and as a child I wanted to color each house a different color, as if the city was a blank canvas. In soulful cities such as Amman, there are so many charming little architectural details that one might fail to notice- especially in older neighborhoods. Over time however I began painting things that were more from nature and less man made- things that were culturally symbolic such as pomegranates and fish, and I often extended into abstraction.
My current works are an amalgamation of both- I describe them as “surreal fusions of nature and city”, as they revolve around the relationship between cities, their inhabitants and nature. In this age of rapid urbanization we run the risk of losing our connection to the natural world- its seas, its valleys, its forests. The physical and mental escape one finds in nature is invigorating and empowering and maintaining this bond is essential- so I’ve been taking this concept and attempting to portray it in colorful and impactful ways.
As for my “artistic style”, in general I have a weakness for symbolism and soulful subjects, with a dash of whimsical expressiveness. Color, all forms of contrast and interesting juxtapositions through mixed media are things I focus on. I’m constantly seeking inspiration from both urban and natural environments and I hope I’ve managed to establish my own recognizable style- so I don’t feel compelled to stick to any one subject.
Evolving is part of the artistic journey and the beauty of art is freedom after all!
Can you please talk about one of your (current) favorite pictures and why you like it and give some insight to the story behind it.
This is one of my recent works entitled “Meet @ the River” (150x220cm). I actually painted this before the quarantine, and now with everybody suddenly having to walk around town and reconnecting to the outdoors, I love it even more. For this one, I relied on a wide variety of media and juxtaposed different textures, in an attempt to express this concept of “eco-living”. The colors are revitalizing and fresh, as is nature’s effect on the soul and spirit. Figures walk happily in surrealist landscapes of color and relax peacefully by the river. Who wouldn’t want to live by a river?
This painting is available for sale at Wadi Finan Art Gallery.
Please describe for us the art scene in Jordan. What challenges do you see? How did it evolve recently? How can young Jordanians get their voice heard?
The art scene is Amman is growing quickly; there has been an emergence of many new galleries and art spaces as well as various different art events in recent years aimed at showcasing established artists as well as emerging ones. Social media is also playing an important role in launching new local talent, allowing them to make important connections and exposing their work. More and more opportunities for growth are evident.
However, I do feel there is a general fear among local artists to take risks and to veer away from ‘comfortable’ themes, which can get repetitive at times. Artists should always be encouraged to be bold, to be original and to take risks. The perspective of what constitutes art could be broadened here in Amman. Art should evoke and provoke, not merely “decorate”. It shouldn’t be an afterthought, it should be the star of the space. Moreover, I often find that emerging artists are easily lured by commercialism, which I feel can kill creativity. Be different, be bold and don’t cater to people’s tastes. Retain your unique creative soul as much as possible.
Currently, we are all in a special situation due to Covid-19. Jordan has been on a strict lock-down for about six weeks now, although things slowly seem to return to normal. How did you use that time for yourself, your family, and as an artist? Did the fact of mainly being at home have an impact on your recent artworks?
Many artists are introverts to some extent so perhaps isolation and social distancing isn’t as difficult as it may be for others. The nature of the job requires solitude, internal reflection and lot’s of time so I found the quarantine helpful creatively. Slowing down, staying positive and focusing on special moments is something everyone has had to embrace. On a personal level, I’ve enjoyed the extra quality time with my 3 kids which is always a precious thing.
Are there any upcoming events or exhibitions planned?
At the moment I have nothing big planned but look forward to 2021 when I’ll have a couple of important art events abroad as well as another solo show here in Amman.
Last but not least, please let us know, how one can reach out, in case she or he is interested in your artworks?
I often have works displayed at Wadi Finan Art Gallery near Rainbow street, and anyone interested may follow me on my Instagram page and my website www.nissaraad.com where I regularly share new works.
Thank you very much, Nissa, for this insight into your style of painting and sharing some thoughts on your artworks. I wish you all the success for future exhibitions and hope to see more of your beautiful artworks soon.