Today, reknowned Swiss artist and lecturer Karim Noureldin reveals his latest work at the von Bartha gallery in the breathtaking canton of Graubünden. As Switzerland celebrates it’s 725th birthday, it seems there could be no day more appropriate to begin this new exhibition – “Walk” which pays tribute to the dhurrie carpets of India but also to the beauty of the Swiss mountains and one of the most Swiss of activities – hiking. Noureldin took some time to share a bit about his new work with OURS :
Can you please tell us a bit about your new exhibition, “Walk”?
The new exhibition will be at von Bartha in S-chanf. The gallery runs two spaces; one is in the city of Basel, a huge, converted garage and showroom, plus another located in S-chanf, a century-old farmhouse with a converted former storage area. I first showed there some years ago with a site-specific wall-painting, so for the second show in S-chanf we opted for a group of my latest works on paper, plus a large floor object, a handwoven carpet specifically made from one of the drawings.
We read that you are also inspired by Middle Eastern geometric patterns, by early mark making, as well as by the collections of applied arts at the V&A and Metropolitan museums. What is it in particular about these that you find inspiring? Are there other domains from which you gain inspiration for your work more generally?
I like to visit museums of any kind, whether it is a small local space dedicated to the history of rural agricultural tools on a small Greek island, an ethnographic collection in a major city, a museum of textile art or paleontology or minerals, of anatomic models modelled in wax, or the history of firemen, or the well-known collection of the V&A and any other world-class institutions; anything interests me.
I like that things are still new to me and as an artist I can work with objects or cultural artefacts which are interesting and inspire my artistic research, but also enrich my general knowledge of the world.
I also often visit contemporary art venues, either for fun, interest or for professional reasons. Even I sometimes have a ‘deformation professionnelle’ as the French call it, so I venture into other fields for inspiration to find out what’s important for my own artistic journey.
How do you feel your culture and your environment have influenced your work?
It definitely has a big influence, because people’s personal interests and preferences are shaped by their biography. I was born and raised in the German speaking part of Switzerland, my father is of Middle Eastern origins, my mother is Swiss. We were a very cosmopolitan family, so I can’t really say if I had one major influence, it’s rather a big melting pot. I have lived in several places in Europe and North America, and now I speak French daily because I live near Geneva. I work on many projects in German, or Swiss German, and I’ll speak English while working on international projects.
How would you say your work has evolved over the years?
It has probably become more mature. Often artists and creators say in general that their newest works are the best ones. My work is also very self-referential: it comes back in circles and topics are reworked and newly interpreted. In drawings from 20 years ago, I find that they search for the same artistic expression, even though they look different to the ones I make today.
What do you think and how do you feel when you look back on your earliest work?
I can’t redo them! Back then, I was often very unsure if they were good enough and some of them I almost hated, but now I think they are just brilliant and I love them all.
Who are some of your favourite artists?
I have a lot, and some change over the years while others have always been my heroes. Blinky Palermo, Donald Judd, Sophie Täuber-Arp, Frank Stella, Mary Heilmann, Dan Walsh, Olivier Mosset, Ugo Rondinone, Wassily Kandinsky, Dan Flavin, David Smith, Alexander Calder… and many others, including historical art movements such as the Italian Renaissance and Flemish paintings. I also like the work of contemporary designers such as the Bouroullec brothers, Jasper Morrison, Ray and Charles Eames or Charlotte Perriand.
I’m also very interested in graphic design and architecture of which Switzerland has some of the best internationally, and if you consider car design as art as I do, then there are some shapes created by Pininfarina, Bertone, Ghia, Giugiaro, Vignale or Frua which are the ultimate rolling sculptures of the 20th century.
Since you exposed your art to the world, what has been your most memorable moment?
It’s hard to choose, but recently several of my works were acquired for the collection of the very same museum that I used to visit frequently as a teenager. I was very touched and moved.
What do your family and friends think of your work?
They’re used to it!
We understand that you are also a professor at ECAL. What do you like to do when you are not teaching or making art?
I chill out! More seriously, I have a family with two young children, so we are often off to a museum or on a weekend hike. I also have quite a passion for vintage cars, I own two of them and drive them all over Europe for meetings, or to see others vintage car owners doing track racing. That’s when I relax the most; seeing and driving those beautiful objects.
Do you have any upcoming projects?
Right now I have a few invitations for public art competitions and a few private commissions which are about to be finished including a floor made of copper for a home, a façade made out of ceramics for a housing project and a huge wall painting for an underground car park. I’m also involved with some galleries to participate in some future art fairs, and the usual group or solo show invitations, which I always like to have. As well as upcoming projects, I often just work in my studio without any aim or production goal, just working for myself doing artwork, like I always did and that’s how it all began.
Karim Noureldin’s “Walk” is at von Bartha, S-chanf from 1 August to 10 September 2016