Bloctagon - Nima Nabavi

August 26, 2022
Journal article cover

Leyla Fakhr: Your work is inspired by Islamic patterns and there is a rhythmic and repetitive action in the creation of your work. Would you say that creating your works feels quite meditative?

Nima Nabavi: I would say that conceiving of the works and their execution is indeed meditative in that it requires me to spend quite a lot of time lost in imagination. Sometimes these ideas will come to me in meditation, sometimes during yoga, and sometimes while just sitting around and daydreaming. The actual creation of the works, however, might be more accurately described as being closer to a maintenance of discipline. The intense repetitions and strict parameters demand a sort of self-imposed brute force trance state to power through and complete. So there are a lot of meditative elements, but I don’t want it to sound like I’m constantly in a blissful state while I work. There is definitely a lot of frustration and challenge too.

Leyla Fakhr: Tell me more about your process of your work. What is the difference between making your work on paper opposed to creating it digitally ? How do you feel having entered the NFT space?

Nima Nabavi: I think the chief difference is that working on paper is a lot less forgiving. You can’t “undo” anything when you’re working with ink and paper and there is very little room for improvisation once the execution phase has begun. On the other hand, I find working non-digitally to be easier when working on pieces that have both micro and macro pattern elements. It is a lot easier for me to see both the big picture and the small picture when working in a physical format. Working digitally has the benefit of being infinitely reworkable and very open to improvisation, but at the same time the options can seem limitless at every point which can mire you down in a different way. I think each format just offers a unique set of tools and it’s an ongoing process to learn how to wield them to make work that is best suited to the particular medium.

Leyla Fakhr: You only entered the art world a few years ago and are now signed with one of the greatest galleries in the Middle East - when did you feel like you are actually an artist ?

Nima Nabavi: I would say that I finally felt like an actual working artist after my first solo show at The Third Line in 2018. It was the first time that I saw groups of people experiencing my work and seeing it resonate with them made me feel like I might have something to contribute in this space. Selling work is one thing but seeing someone spending time lost in a piece is a deeper and truer level of validation for me.

Leyla Fakhr: As an artist how do you feel about an increasingly digital world, does this excite you or worry you?

Nima Nabavi: I think that artists of every generation have had to grapple with the tools and technology of their age. There are always some new advancements that may not suit the artisans of a particular era. We are no exception. For me personally, I had worked in digital design before I had ever drawn anything by hand, so I’m not intimidated by the art world’s current embrace of digital work. I also think that the rise of digital art has also increased the value of hand-made physically crafted artwork. They are just different mediums, and you have to work each in its own way. I don’t think that one negates the other. More room is being created for more art by more artists - and that is always exciting.

The Third Line: You are currently in the middle of a year-long residency at the Roswell Artist-in-Residence Program in New Mexico, how is the experience going so far and what are you hoping to gain from it?

Nima Nabavi: This has been a remarkably unique experience from the moment I arrived in Roswell. The RAiR program has 6 artists at a time here on a large chunk of isolated rural land. We each get these huge studios with tons of support and zero expectations for a whole year. Just the expanse of space and time has shifted the dimensions of how I approach my work. I wanted to be here just to break the routine of my life and to be around other artists that were pushing their limits. It’s fascinating to live in such proximity to them and to see their rituals, their practices and how they conduct their daily lives. When you live in a big city, the rhythms of most people’s lives may not be in tune with the tempo of an artistic practice. Stripping all of that away for a year has really allowed me to focus on my work in a very novel and lucid way.

The Third Line: Your work translates so beautifully into the digital space, was this a medium you always imagined exploring (whether that be with NFTs or video work)?

Nima Nabavi: Actually, my first solo exhibition did have an animated video element that showed how the works in the three series all tied in together. Each artwork in a series was essentially a frame in the animation, and being able to represent that visually on screen helped guide the narrative of the show.  A lot of my work lends itself to being animated in an infinite rhythmic loop and that is obviously something that is difficult to represent in a static painting. Having NFT’s as an outlet for this type of work bolsters the rest of my practice as well. I imagine that the bulk of my work will remain in the non-digital realm, but just being able to tinker in the digital world and glimpse the expanse of possibilities is very exciting.

Nima Nabavi lives and works in Dubai, where he dedicates himself to an art practice driven by a mathematical approach and a contemplative execution of intricate geometries. Nima's first solo exhibition 1,2,3 at The Third Line, Dubai, consisted of 27 new works in three series.

Nima's group exhibitions include: Ways of Seeing Abstraction - Works from the Deutsche Bank Collection, Palais Populaire, Berlin, Germany (Upcoming 2021); There is Fiction In The Space Between, The Third Line, Dubai, UAE (2020); Crafting Geometry: Abstract Art from South and West Asia, Sotheby’s, New York, USA (2020); Fragments, Yesterday and Today, Gateway, Abu Dhabi Art, Abu Dhabi, UAE (2019); Your Favorite Artist's Favorite Artist #2, Joshua Liner Gallery, New York, USA (2019); Horizon, Sharjah Islamic Arts Festival, Sharjah, UAE (2018).

Nima's work is part of private and public collections, including the Deutsche Bank Collection, Berlin, Germany and the Jameel Arts Centre, Dubai, UAE.

The Third Line is a Dubai-based gallery that represents contemporary Middle Eastern artists locally, regionally, and internationally. A pioneering platform for established talent and emerging voices from the region and its diaspora, The Third Line has built a dynamic program that explores the diversity of practice in the region.                                                                                          

In addition to its exhibitions, The Third Line engages in the production of art publications in English and Arabic and hosts numerous non-profit, alternative programs that add to the discourse on art, film, music and literature in the region.

Represented artists include Abbas Akhavan, Ala Ebtekar, Amir H. Fallah, Anuar Khalifi, Farah Al Qasimi, Farhad Moshiri, Fouad Elkoury, Hassan Hajjaj, Hayv Kahraman, Huda Lutfi, Joana Hadjithomas & Khalil Joreige, Jordan Nassar, Laleh Khorramian, Lamya Gargash, Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian, Nima Nabavi, Pouran Jinchi, Rana Begum, Sahand Hesamiyan, Sara Naim, Sherin Guirguis, Shirin Aliabadi, Slavs and Tatars, Sophia Al Maria, Tarek Al-Ghoussein, yasiin bey, Youssef Nabil and Zineb Sedira.

Leyla Fakhr is Head of Programming at Verse. After working at the Tate for 8 years, she worked as an independent curator and producer across various projects internationally. During her time at Tate she was part of the acquisition team and worked on a number of collection displays including John Akomfrah, ‘The Unfinished Conversation’ and ‘Migrations, Journeys into British Art’.

She is the editor of the monograph on artist Reza Aramesh and producer of documentary ‘Monir’, a film on the life and work of the artist Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian. She was a curator at Green Cardamom (2006-2009), where she worked on numerous exhibitions with artists predominantly from South Asia and the Middle East creating projects internationally.

Subscribe to get the latest on 
artists, exhibitions and more.