“Get To Know Me And You Will Love Me”



Suzy Nassif – Fata Morgana or the Witch of Portobello. No, Suzi Nassif does not paint. But she plays with millions of lights and shadows in building a fantasy world, as only a Lebanese woman can do by some unknown secret and ancestral magic. To whom should I compare her? To the Witch of Portobello? To all those wonderful feminine characters of the extraordinary Nadine Labaki from the movie Caramel? No, I do not compare her, because Suzi Nassif is one million women in a single one.

Her pictures, her drawings, her photos, all lead us to a world of surprises She is one after another Alice in Wonderland and the Wizard of Oz. Maybe Suzi has a magic wand since birth or maybe she took over something unique and wonderful from her extraordinary meeting with Paulo Coelho but Suzi discloses to us miraculous characters and the titles of her works speak for themselves: Her Majesty and Her Ego, The Destiny Of A Butterfly, Rebel Heart, Her Golden Silhouette, I Found My Light In His Shadow, and Desert Wind.

Suzi Nassif is a rebel, a sophisticated eccentric, delicate, feminine, hiding her creative emotion in childish games, decorating the daily reality with fantasy elements of time and space.

Suzi talks to Salvador Dali and cries with the miseries of Frida Khalo. She is the empress of the moment, the abandoned sweetheart, the flying butterfly and the song of the Fata Morgana among sand-dunes. She is a flame, rebelling at heart and seeking her destiny with tears in her eyes. Since those times, after she left Lebanon, she triumphantly entered the bright light of this dazzling, cosmopolitan and so complicated Dubai.

The paintings of Suzi are so strong that you feel they call you, a voice of the unknown, but at the same time a voice of our soul’s abyss. This is where her pictorial reinterpretation of Madame Bovary or Charlie's Angels comes from. Suzi proves that in the disagreements among us there is a grain of poetry, literature, music, love, hate, sympathy and antipathy. The wonderful Suzi Nassif is very brave, she is afraid neither of emotions, nor of colours, nor the overwhelming work of creation. She lives in a world of her own, a unique and unmistakable world where there is a place also for Janis Joplin and Fairouz and Mozart and Majda Rumi. Suzi lives at the crossroads between a skyscraper in the Emirates and the sand-dunes of the desert. I notice the colours of her paintings, especially those representing the Arab woman, so spectacularly sensual and I hear in the background the wonderful voice of Dana Alfardan the first opera singer of Qatar. I suddenly remember the first CD with classical Arabian music recorded by the Qatar Opera, which I received as a gift from the wonderful Dr. Said Al Hajari. The paintings of Suzi Nassif talk about changing times, the modernization of the countries from the Arabian Gulf. They talk about ancestral tradition, but also about the new road of the young generations in Abaya and herself, the Lebanese artist that fulfilled her magic destiny in the UAE. She observes and describes maybe best of all, with much colour and emotion, the fabulous story of this continuously changing world of palm trees and fast cars, of bukhur flavours and eternal, unique and unmistakable oriental romanticism.

Who knows the artist Suzi Nassif well, understands that she is neither a witch nor the little girl disguising herself in princess clothes. She is a solid socially and humanitarian engaged artist, who knows how to transpose her messages and ideas onto her fabulous canvases, a delight of the eyes and a joy of the soul. And what can be more beautiful than really knowing each other with emotion, love and tolerance?

We echo Suzi Nassif's artistic message: “Get To Know Me And You Will Love Me!”

— Monica Mergiu

SUZI NASSIF "Get To Know Me And You Will Love Me"

You  were  born in Lebanon-  in the wonderful country of the poet Khalil Gibran Why did you choose Dubai as your second home?

This is a question that brings out of me all forms of “NOSTALGIA”, melancholia, and absolute Authenticity! The name Khalil Gibran is as powerful as our flag, identity, culture, CV and the perfect manifestation of who we are as Lebanese. That name alone raises us to a different realm no matter where we are positioned in society/world/Universe! I grew up reading and studying “Khalil Gibran” until his book "The Prophet" became a part of my soul, subconscious, conscious and all the unconscious love that I consist of.  He is the “Lebanon” that I carry with me wherever I fly!  the UAE offered me a great home filled with love, stability, and above all, safety. The UAE is my second Home. I found a world composed of Arabian and cosmopolitan hubs that made a total understanding of all the differences in religions, colours, politics and traditions. Why UAE? A  “lovely” destiny called “Lebanese Love/life partner Living in Dubai”; and to write a new chapter titled: Rebel heart waiting for the desert wind!

When did you start your artistic activity and where do you feel more creative, in Lebanon or Dubai?

I guess I was artistically active since a very young age, I used to draw and paint images in my head so vividly it almost looked real, a world swinging between surreal and real that I call now: the Lala/land until the major “enlightening"  STORM Smacked me with a bitter reality back in 2006 where I was caged, Trapped in a beautiful sacred haven called “Lebanon”  that turned in few hours into a Bull ring where blood was splashing and nerves were wrecking and sirens were screaming and the infinite tension, the threat that tomorrow never comes! being trapped into this fierce bloody cell again, I had to find an outlet, a breather otherwise my end will be a heart/mind/body attack so I saved myself by Starting to paint my surreality on canvas. I must admit it looked like a kindergarten work with a lot to say.. symbols/codes/ and an endless original scream!  My 1st home gave me the sail! My second gave me the wind! And the world is my sea!

As a woman and artist for sure you are very sensitive and very emotional. What is your personal artistic message for the international art world?

I believe a vivid imagination and an excellent memory and yes a unique sensitivity when it comes to lots of subject matters! I can store images, emotions, facial expressions, words, poems in my mind like an organised catalogue!  with every painting, I tell a different story, sometimes from my mental catalogue, other times from a present reality or surreality! I focus a lot on the eyes, the eyes are the most prominent element in my portraits, they speak to me and to the others about the beauty or the struggle of a personal experience in a culture or in a society! I paint my dreams, your dreams, my reality, your reality, every tragedy, and comedy that exists around us! with every portrait, I portray a situation, a mood, or how I imagined it to be! it’s important to me to breathe life into a painting, to scream the silence of the viewer where they can relate to my art in a certain way! I love it when I look at people’s facial expression or reactions when contemplating my Art, sometimes the sadness, or the witty smile,  the laughing, or the shock!

This is what I meant by I try to make my paintings breathe life, communicate, unfold and leave an infinite trace in the mind and soul of the viewer! this is my greatest reward!  I try to be the legendary storyteller Scheherazade but in my own artistic way where colours, faces, phases, mediums, brushes, canvas and myself are the main vessels to tell stories from the one thousand and one nights!

As an Arabian woman artist, how did you find your personal place in this international art world? 

I was more than welcomed in the international art world especially as an Arabian painter and a woman! The presence of many talented Arab women in the world is increasing tremendously in our present time, fortunately! The fact that we are more independent and free to express ourselves, our nature, our culture and our stories is stimulating a certain curiosity in the international market, they know we have a lot to say, our personal messages are different from the mass publicity where the media conveys us in false images that deforms us as a culture and gender most of the times! In one of my international exhibitions, I was exposed to artists from around the globe and I was surprised with the questions I was asked about us!

I made a speech where I spoke about my origins, my region, and my roots. I could sense the eagerness in their faces because for the international world we are probably either the victims or the monsters; this crazy paradox, this confusion about our true identity, our reality! 

As an Arabian artist, I dream to represent and express my stories, my country, my region, the struggles, the agony, the courage, the weakness, war and peace and all through my artwork! it's a personnel message screaming justice to the Middle East! And I am sure lots of Arabian middle eastern women Artists share my message because for us, it's simply a Middle Eastern Love and I am more than happy to share it with the world!

What is your favorite colour and how do you choose your subjects for your artwork?

A combination of colours but most of my paintings are in black white gold and red, somehow I am attracted to these combinations unconsciously so maybe they express my subjects in a powerful way!

I find myself rarely using purple shades or green shades, maybe blue! I believe it's the subject I choose depending on my state of mind or my message or my story that demands the colour combo not my choice and I listen to the canvas and I follow the demand of the subject naturally! I let it speak, shout and order it to breathe life! A month back, I was painting a series of portraits for homeless people in a refugee camp and spontaneously my palette turned into a black and white mix and I ended up with a black and white and silver leaf painting.. I did not choose it, the subjects did! on the other hand, when I was painting Dali and Frida or the butterfly effect I couldn't help but splash different flavours and colours onto the canvas. It's like the theory of cause and effect, for example, because I paint the Mexican artist Frida, the effect is mostly red and green and colourful and because I paint an old man, unconsciously the colours are black and white and shades of silver! it's a psychological process. That's it!

Somehow yourpainting collection of FACES AND PHASES are reminding me of Nadine Labaki's movie - CARAMEL. How much Lebanese and how much Emirati is your personality?

I call it the  “LEBANESE DNA” with an Emirati cell fusion! As Lebanese we all carry that DNA created by our culture and history that's why you probably found almost the same soul in my Art and Nadine Labaki’s Art, we speak the same language but we express it in different ways! Living in Dubai for such a long time added an exotic cultural flavour, a special twist to me and my work, my fascination with the Emirati culture and the desert since my youth was and still overwhelming, I describe it as a woman that is powerful, soft, gold, cold, warm, rough, tough, poetic, artistic, smooth, romantic, mysterious and magically beautiful. Proud to say,  I am the bearer of two great cultures!

I love your Ramadan Collection and I think it is a very sensitive and progressive interpretation of Ramadan. Are you a religious person?

Well, Born in a Christian family, living in an Islamic cosmopolitan country which is also home to so many religions and beliefs and everyone has a deep sense of respect for other people's religious views, symbols, and rituals. I read all holy books and watched all sorts of religious documentaries, visited different holy temples, I concluded that we all belong in a way or another to: GOD ALMIGHTY!

The title of one of your paintings - I FOUND MY LIGHT IN HIS SHADOW, can this be a message of femininity? What is more important: femininity or feminism?

When we talk about the creation of women, unfortunately, It seems like Eve the sinner in the garden of Eden! Over time, and questionable interpretations, the woman appears to be a misconception or a maybe a mistake. Her identity has been attacked and even destroyed during the old ages and sometimes our century!

But if we look at the Creator, to God Almighty, we discover his intentions when He created women in his image. she was created to have a role in this world like the men. EVE received the mandate and a position together with Adam To dominate over the earth and TO BE!

For that, this world is created out of two major components “man and woman”  And we both play a great role and a unique one to define a certain reality that is essential to our universe in order to guarantee the process of continuance! To exist, to evolve! faith in both! I believe in this opposite attraction formulae or even the Ying Yang that is the perfect balance for our existence! I don't deny the feminine part of me, my nature, my being, my passion for the little things that makes me fashionably attractive! I love fashion, I love to look at the mirror and draw my eyeliner and my lipliner and open my closet and style myself and show my femininity and simply be a woman! Yet, being beautiful/stylish/feminine and all the dresses/make up/jewellery etc is not what defines a real woman and it’s definitely NOT enough! In my words, I say: “to be or not to be The Real Woman!” This is the sacred secret! I don't really like to hear the famous french movie title: Sois belle et tais- toit!” (Be Beautiful But Shut Up) it really hurts me when I hear someone describing any woman with such words! I prefer the authentic, genuine meaning of “Dieu a cree la Femme”.   

I would proudly quote my friend Rana El-Eid who is an Award-winning Entrepreneur and author of the Book “Think Like A Woman, Act Like An Entrepreneur.” When writing about women empowerment, she declared freely: “I am a woman hear me roa.r” Yet she also addressed the women’s world by stating "how to break free from the shackles of limitations without rearranging your chromosomes!” I totally agree!  

In conclusion, I’d rather eliminate those labels “femininity and “feminism” and high five 2 words: “EMPOWER WOMEN” I believe in the pure essence of a real woman, her fragility, her power, her charm, her determination, her spontaneity and her challenge and all the charming paradoxes that exist within her, the noble twist in her personality that makes her a whole! a whole universe of beauty and once the original balance is manifested, a goddess is born! A queen renowned for her beauty, femininity and power! A real woman!

I see many representations of diverse women in your paintings where you are actually celebrating the women and their emotions: FRIDA KHALO; MADAME BOVARY; DALIDA etc. What is the difference between these oriental women, Arabian women and other nationalities women?

As a woman, a deep vision regarding women throughout history until today. I believe that our role in society is crucial. That role is simple yet complicated, a woman makes a family, the family makes a home and the homes make a society.“ WE ARE THE MOTHERS OF ALL”! The role of women has changed dramatically, evolving slowly and into individuals seen today with equal rights. Unfortunately, some women are also limited by a society that rules us by false expectations of beauty and throws us into a corruption of identity crisis regardless of what origins we came from whether Oriental, Arabian, European, African, Latin or of any Other!

When looking back at two different historical civilizations that had two different identities and roles for women. I think of Sparta and Athens, two of the Greek poleis that stood out for their vividly contrasting styles of life and their roles in Greek history. Their most surprising contrast being the difference in the roles and statuses of women. Spartan women were given a good education in both the arts and athletics and were encouraged to develop their intellect plus their rights to own properties and land, on the other hand, Athenian women received a basic education from their mothers at home, beyond the skills required to spin, weave, sew, and cook; along with the ability to raise children. They deprived them of the participation in sports so widely encouraged in young boys and men!  When reading the history of different civilizations throughout the centuries until today. I always conclude that we still have societies across the globe that are similar to Sparta and Athens when regarding Women. Regardless of how far we evolved.

 As an artist and a woman, the subject of women is an essential tool of inspiration for my art that I always portray in different moods, styles, expressions and postures to capture the struggle, her story and her history according to her background, environment, identity and diversity. in each and every one of them I can relate in a way or another!

I love "The Destiny of Butterfly" and "Her Majesty and His Ego." I think in any woman lies a queen and a butterfly. Do you think that our destiny as women is to be as fragile as the butterfly? What makes you strong and what makes you fragile as an womaN artisT?

Why look at fragility as not a charming trait? Or even a powerful virtue. In fact, it was the butterfly who survived, not the dinosaurs! Just like the butterfly we evolve in a magnificent mechanism, the way we begin and the dark stages we go through in life until we reach the major transformation that is simply majestic and invincible. Allow me to rephrase the question, “I believe women are purely queens from within and glorified in radiant colours and beauty and majesty like the butterfly from the outside!”
I always like to quote the author “Diane Mariechild" when asked about womanhood: “A woman Is The Full Circle." Within her is the power to create, nurture and transform.  

Yet, on a personal level, I say that I am deeply affected by the injustice, violence, conspiracy, child/woman/ animal abuse, and the egoistic world we live in. All the suffering around us, the sickness, the poverty, the death and mostly the feeling that I am helpless to do anything about it whether I scream “STOP” loudly as a woman or when I paint a defeated face as an artist! my recent painting series was a scream in black and white: refugee camp! I am totally terrified by the shocking situation in the Middle East, by the barbarians' acts that are crippling and deforming our face on earth! this darkness makes me awfully devastated! and yes ultimately: Fragile!   

On the other hand, when speaking of strength, I quote my favourite author Paulo Coelho: “The Pain Of Yesterday Is The Strength Of Today!"

I look at life as the most challenging experience, and being here means accepting this challenge. It’s the power to face it, embrace it, cherish it with no regrets because life is worth it! And by abiding by the principle of being positive in my journey I get all the strength I need to look at life from a different perspective. I always say: "it’s not always wings and butterflies, there are also some cactuses and wilderness around." I fell so many times but I forced me to rise again and pick up my broken pieces and shine again. It’s a vicious circle!  Life is simply brilliant!  And this is where I get my strength from..., “Lovin Life With All Its Spices.”

My exhibition entitled “VIVA LA VIDA, VIVA EL AMOR!” actually defines who or what I am in a few words!




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