Perhaps the most exciting part of my job as writer for The Avenue Concept is meeting different artists and learning about their amazing work. The other fun part, of course, is sharing their stories. In the coming weeks and months, we’ll be featuring these artist profiles here on the blog. We look forward to hearing your thoughts!
Artist Profile: Nidal Fakhouri
Our first featured artist is Nidal Fakhouri, a software developer and ceramic artist who is part of a vibrant community of artists sharing studio space in the historic Nicholson File Company Mill Complex. “All of the artists in this building have pretty similar motives, which is not just being studio artists but to build community through the work we do,” says Nidal. “We’re all multi-faced in that nobody here is singularly employed. But we do our work here with the intent to put ourselves out there in the world and strengthen the role of what we do in Providence.”
On being a ceramic artist
Nidal acknowledges the traditional role that ceramics has played throughout history and in our everyday lives: “Every time you eat or take a shower, you are interacting with ceramics, but nobody thinks about it because it’s this utilitarian thing.”
“When I met Yarrow [founder & artistic director of The Avenue] we started talking about tiling as the next step for ceramics,” explains Nidal. “We felt like tiling was yet another way to get exposure and build community that subverted the traditional way of selling work in a store or gallery… In many ways, it is the perfect medium for public art.”
INFLUX project: tile pedestals
Nidal’s project involves tiling six pedestals along the parking lot adjacent to The Dean Hotel, the site of the Dean Avenue Activisual Experiment on September 26. Works of art in their own right, the six pedestals will also serve as bases for metal sculptures by another INFLUX artist, Frank Barada (soon to be featured here on the blog).
Comprised of porcelain tiles with colorful silkscreened patterns and designs, each pedestal has its own theme that expresses Nidal’s own personal taste and interests. Some of these themes include:
- Classic op-art patterns overlaid with technology imagery – As a software developer, Nidal has a soft spot for technology and incorporates it into his ceramic art, even doing casts of an old “Mac Classic” computer.
- Geometric patterns inspired by Islamic art – Nidal’s father is from Lebanon and though he is a self-proclaimed atheist, “I still respect where I’ve come from and I just like using the pattern,” he explains.
- Sea creatures with tentacles – “I’m a big advocate of swimming in the ocean and I love this octopus one; I love anything with tentacles—they’re just funny,” he says. “I got this image from the drawings of Ernst Haeckel, a 19th century German naturalist who was the first person to draw and identify a lot of species from a cellular biology perspective.”
- Combinations of op-art patterns – “With some of the tiles I wasn’t trying to impose too much meaning because content isn’t nearly as important as the fact that they’re going to be installed in a public space,” he says.
Nidal’s creative process
“Ceramics is a very process-heavy art form,” notes Nidal. “There’s a quote from the famous ceramicist Grayson Perry: ‘Ceramics is just a series of managed disappointments’—and it’s so true!” he adds with a laugh. He then shared a variety of projects around the building that he called his attempts to “mitigate” those disappointments. By experimenting with different thicknesses of clay, different types of adhesives, different kinds of grout, etc., Nidal is ready for the next challenge.
“I’m really excited about this opportunity [INFLUX] to put these tiles in downtown, get myself out there in the community, and then ideally work further to engage people in every step of the process.”
To learn more about Nidal, visit his website.