Adra Kandil (more widely known as Dear Nostalgia) is a female visual artist and designer. She was born and raised in Beirut, Lebanon. Her artistic inclination began in Barcelona, where she received her degree in innovation for design. Her digital art is unmistakable, with her sentimentality towards 60's photography and the moon, her artworks emanate a nostalgic dreamlike feeling. Her style combines retro vibes with vivid pop colors and sleek typography to create a visual image of our generation's struggle. Nostalgia and melancholy are the core and string tying every piece together.
We talk to Adra about memory and sentimentality, and how her work addresses issues related to culture, gender equality, social and political change in the Middle East.
Your work is a recollection of memories in the Middle East, and has a deep sentimentality towards 1960's photography, and compositions that blur time and space. What inspired you to recreate this style?
For me, it's about the sentimentality, romance, and intimacy of the past, the glory days. The sensory intimacy we’re losing touch with and disconnecting from slowly, by staying connected to our screens. Hailing a taxi, playing your favorite record, watching the sunrise on the coast, everything has been turned into instant gratification by the tap of your finger, instead of being truly and presently engulfed by the experience itself. For me, my art is merging the nostalgia of the past and all its magic and etherealism into the present, and future.
You use photography, collage, typography, and digital montage to create your works. How did you develop the skills needed for this specific style of visual arts?
My educational background was the stepping stone towards harnessing my creativity with conceptualization and execution. I studied design and branding at IED Barcelona and did my master's in research and innovation for Design at Elisava Barcelona. Here, I gained the basic skills to start using the tools I need to translate my ideas into visual art. After that, I worked as an art director at a boutique branding and advertising agency in Beirut, which taught me even more, and developed my creative process, including soft skills and technical ones, and the rest came with passion, hours of youtube tutorials, and every day I’m still learning something new. Always a work in progress.
Nostalgia is a key theme that drives your creativity. Why?
Memories are everything to me. I love the romance, melancholia, and euphoria that comes with nostalgia. From hearing my father and grandmother’s stories of Beirut, and their lives in the past, to being absolutely in love with anything from the ’50s to the ’90s, I’m an old soul living in a modern world, trying to feel alive feeling both.
Post Apocalyptic Nostalgia
Your work is created through an imaginative unique lens, creating new landscapes. Where do you draw your ideas from?
Romance. Strangers and passers-by. Pain, tragedy, love. Devouring old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, long car rides, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light, and shadows. Beirut.
A Trip in Time
Can you tell us more about the “Artistic Big Bang”, a stepping stone in art that surfaced during the Lebanese Revolution. How has this uprising has changed the art and culture scenes in Lebanon?
I think this “Big Bang” is a result of so much pain and endurance and a beautiful way of channeling it. People needed to be heard, march, scream, fight, create. It was our way of telling our story through our lens, whatever medium it was.
What do you think is the current state of visual arts in Lebanon and more widely in the Middle East?
A work in progress. There is so so so much talent here it’s uncanny, but unfortunately not exposed to the world enough and not appreciated enough. The scene is still unseen.
Which artists have influenced your practice?
Salvador Dali, Marina Abramovic, Yoko Ono, Rupi Kaur, Jean-Luc Goddard, Frank Moth, Roger Mattos… the list is endless.
In a digital world where artists are expected to put out work in the public sphere online regularly, how do you preserve your creative energy?
It used to take a toll on me. To be honest, though, my intention with my art is to move people and evoke conversations about things that matter, and as soon as I truly realized that’s really what it’s about, nothing else mattered. I never did and never will have a “strategy” or timing to post, if I make an artwork at 5 am, be sure it will be posted then, regardless of the digital expectations. I create for myself, and for the world, not for any platform or any fame.
Where are our dreams
You have taken part in numerous exhibitions, locally and internationally. What has been your most memorable experience?
My first exhibition was in the New York Botanical Gardens in 2018. My art wasn’t hung and framed on walls, it was spread across flowers, trees, butterflies, and grass. It was free, flowing, fleeing.
NOT A VACATION
Which is your most favorite work you have created to date and why?
Every day my favorite work changes, and sometimes I loathe art I created in the past, I have a love-hate relationship with my art, but it all comes from a fire in my soul that cannot be put out and that's all that matters. Everything and nothing.
What does the future of Islamic art look like to you?
Beautiful. Innovative. Full of talent.
For more information follow Adra Kandil on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/dear.nostalgia/?hl=en
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