All of the different elements that make up [my identity] are present when I make an artwork… I was trained as a video artist, but when I began drawing, it allowed me to enter a fantasy world. I read a lot of books about astral projections, lucid dreaming, previous incarnations, and past lives. I was very excited about the idea of a muse… as energies that don’t have bodies. -Artist Karam Natour
Artis and Sternthal Books are pleased to invite you to view a new video profile about the work and practice of artist Karam Natour. In the video profile, Karam discusses the use of humor and play in his work, a complex discourse about identity, and his own experiences as an artist whose mother tongue is Arabic. He also shares recent video works and drawings that explore the construction of identity, family culture, and archetypes in art history.
In his video work, Heat in My Head (2015), Karam engages in a series of games with his nuclear family. In one scene, Karam invites his mother to pick him up and hold him (pictured above). The encounter is inspired by Michelangelo’s Pietà, which Karam transforms into a moving image. In the video, Karam is held by his mother, who struggles to support his body weight. When she can no longer hold Karam in her arms, she dramatically abandons the fantasy of reconstructing the Pietà in order to get back to her day-to-day obligations. Throughout the scene, both Karam and his mother rely on humor and intimacy to re-enact the tender moment between mother and child, capturing a special moment between the two of them. Speaking about the process of bringing family into his art practice, Karam explains how this has fostered closer connections and mutual understanding.
Karam also discusses his interest in muses, and identifies The Court Jester from Shakespeare’s As You Like It as a character that he collaborates with in his work. Jesters are entertainers and use humor to subtly communicate social and political criticisms. In the excerpt of Jester Lux (2020) included in Karam’s video profile, Karam performs as the jester, practicing trickery and mystery at night on the campus of the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. Karam also embodies the jester as a subject in his digital drawings. In a collection of drawings, which was published as an artist book, titled Jester Lux (2021), Karam/the jester is the protagonist in scenarios that are surreal, playful, and absurd. Reflecting on the power of language and muses, he says, “I still remember the very first day that I understood that Arabic is my mother tongue, and that there are other languages [that exist]. The moment that I was aware of this other side, and how they perceive me… changed the way I interact in the social sphere.”
Finally, Karam shares his most recent digital drawings, which are informed by mythology and include representations of deities, gods, and celestial beings. Karam talks about the presence of abstraction as a new element in his drawings. Karam explains that his use of abstraction in drawing is a reference to visual representations in Islamic art, and allows him to explore topics that are both personal and infinite.
In the Studio with Karam Natour was created by Artis, edited and directed by Ian Sternthal, and produced by Sternthal Books, filmed by Geert Van Kesteren. All rights reserved by Artis and Sternthal Books, 2022.