The vivid and the abstract: Nassim Nasr, Managing Director/Abstract Painter

On any given working day, as managing director of a leading branding agency, Lebanese expat Nassim Nasr is creating, planning, measuring and managing branding strategies, forecasting sales figures, and generating new business leads.

But once he gets home, he swirls his brushes to create paintings which are "physical manifestations of the eternally questioning mind", as Nassim prefers to put it.

Based in Dubai for the past 26 years, Nassim is a self-taught student of minimalism and abstract expressionism.

He started painting in his early teens, he says, by copying great artists such as Monet, Mondrian, Rothko Pollock and the likes. "This allowed me to learn different techniques and styles but most importantly it helped me find my technique and style. After much experimentation, I found myself in abstract expressionism since it allowed me the greatest freedom," he says.

Around 20 years ago, amazed by his art works, a friend asked him if he could create an artwork for him to adorn his living room. "That was the first time I did a commissioned work," says Nassim. Since then, he has done many commissioned works, the latest being for Majid Al Futtaim’s corporate headquarters in Dubai.

Over the past two years he has exhibited twice at World Art Dubai, once at Seasons Expo and currently he has his second exhibition at Picasso Gallery next to Alserkal Avenue, which is on until the end of June.

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"When I did my first show at World Art Dubai in October 2020, I was just starting to promote my work on Instagram and was relatively unknown. But by the time I got ready for my second show in April 2021 at World Art Dubai, things had changed dramatically. Thanks to social media, visitors knew who I was and were following my work." It also helped that he had been featured on the cover of an art publication and "I had people coming to my show asking for my signature on the magazine, which was a great feeling to be recognized", he says.

Balancing work, art and family is easy for Nassim as he believes people make time to do what they love. "Of course, it can drain you of all your energy and by the time you are done, you barely have the will to switch on the TV. But when you love doing something it becomes a joy and relieves you of the stress of the day. It gives you something to look forward to and it holds a sense of excitement," he says.

Sometimes he spends a few hours working on a painting, and other times he prepares for the next painting by sketching. "When I pick up a brush, I have trained myself to stop because earlier I would lose track of time and sometimes work till the sun is up. Nowadays, I just put the remaining work away for the weekends."

His pictures are created in stages by reacting spontaneously to every element and form that appears. The process involves continuous application and scraping of paint to expose previous layers creating compositions that are visually arresting.

He finds inspiration in the overlap of modern sensibilities with the complexities of the traditional. Nassim calls it "the interplay between the fundamentals – our nature, scientific absolutes, the building blocks of ordered society, and the reality that any external force could disrupt that order. Chaos is a blink of an eye."

The managing director who also wears the hat of an artist is happy when people interpret his art in their own way. "I have many people come up to me and ask what my paintings mean. Most of them are convinced by the answers I give them. However, there are a few people who cannot see my point of view however much I try to explain it. Such incidents are really humbling and eye opening. It has taught me that to impose a story onto a specific work can sometimes do a disservice to it. Abstract art is completed by the viewer," he says.

Whenever he finishes a painting, he anxiously awaits the review from his biggest critics, which include his wife Joanna and his kids Emile, 10, and twin girls Léonie and Noémie, 4.

"If they let me keep the painting in our house, I know it’s good," he laughs. His elder sister Anita, who is a painter and published author, also gives him constructive feedback.

"Sometimes she is a bit hard on me but that’s okay since its tough love," he says.

Nassim plans to keep on painting until the day comes when he can no longer pick up a brush. "Hopefully, I will be lucky enough to just paint for a living, but until that time comes, I’m happy to be able to do it whenever I can," he says.

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