Nadia Ayari: Eyelash in the Unknown

November 28th, 2022 - January 7th, 2023
  • Nadia Ayari, Eyelash in the Unknown, Installation View

Nina Johnson is pleased to present a solo exhibition of new work by artist Nadia Ayari, on view November 28, 2022 – January 7, 2023. Eyelash in the Unknown—a title inspired by the words of poet Daniel Feinberg—features a new body of narrative-driven works, including the artist’s signature style of paintings and never-before-seen clear cast glass sculptures.

  • Nadia Ayari, Waves III, 2022, Oil on linen, 55 x 73 in. Detail View

Raised in Tunisia and based in Brooklyn since 2007, Ayari’s paintings are characterized by a discernable balance between abstraction and figuration, often exploring elements of her native landscape, the narration of a story, and what she sees as a negotiation of her personal and political views. Using natural imagery as the core subject of her work—undulating branches, pink flowers, twisting leaves—Ayari’s canvases are brought to life with vibrant colors, bold tones, and thick textures.

  • Nadia Ayari, Wave, 2022 Fresco and cast glass, 10.5 x 20 x 4.25 in. Detail View
  • Nadia Ayari, Eyelash in the Unknown, Installation View

Ayari’s densely composed paintings are a result of a slow, labor-intensive process (one painting can take up to two months). Using an intricate oil painting method to create goopy-textured canvases that represent a sculpture-like quality, the artist invites viewers to immerse themselves in her work and create their own narrative. Isolated encounters and singular elements are grouped together into one cohesive story in which the artist brings life and movement to elements of nature that are typically regarded as still. Ayari’s work evokes a post-humanist touch to nature, generating a futuristic, almost sci-fi version of the natural world.

  • Nadia Ayari, Arch, 2022, Fresco and cast glass, 10.5 x 20 x 3.75 in.
  • Nadia Ayari, Touch III, 2022, Oil on linen, 55 x 73 in.

In her exhibition at Nina Johnson, Ayari introduces a new series of cast glass sculptures that are based on elements of the paintings. For the artist, this is an exciting new aspect to her work: where the textural decisions in her paintings are executed manually, the sculptures are produced automatically from a 3D print mold. She also infuses a new color in this show: orange — which the artist describes as “succinctly communicating a sense of urgency and connection despite alienation and innumerable changes [she] had been experiencing.” Featured heavily in Waves II, this new orange brings an expressive quality to the protagonists in the work. In exploring this color, the artist regards this show as encompassing a love letter to Miami.

  • Nadia Ayari, Cross II, 2022, Oil on linen, 55 x 73 in. Detail View
  • Nadia Ayari, Eyelash in the Unknown, Installation view

Ayari was recently one of 47 artists in MoMA PS1’s signature exhibition, Greater New York (2021), a timely exhibition that honored not only the persistence of artists, but their ability to help us make sense of the many ruptures—social, political, and ecological—that have shaped New York City in this critical and transformative moment. The artist was also featured in Phaidon’s Great Women Painters, the most extensive fully illustrated book of women artists ever published.

  • Nadia Ayari, Waves II, 2021, Oil on linen, 55 x 73 in. Detail View
  • Nadia Ayari, Eyelash in the Unknown, Installation view
Nadia Ayari

Straddling abstraction and figuration, Nadia Ayari’s work often negotiates the personal and the political. “With a set of protagonists invented from the flora of my native North Africa, my work tackles narratives of survival. Lately, I have been exploring images where, against all odds, my paintings’ branches, pink flowers, and leaves are thriving; either by being in motion or in connection with one another. I render these compositions in thick, methodically applied oil-paint to give the characters and the plastic space they inhabit a substantial skin, making them physically relatable. Developed in tandem with my paintings, my sculptural practice allows me to further explore my work’s conceptual narratives. This activity yields works that serve as sites of reflection to the paintings’ events- anchors that communicate my aesthetic and perspectives.” Ayari has had solo projects at Luce, Turin (2009); Monya Rowe, New York (2011); The Third Line, Dubai (2013); and Taymour Grahne: New York (2016), Untitled, Miami Beach (2016); London (2019); Art Genève (2020); London (2021); Cadet Capela, Paris (2023). She participated in the 12th International Cairo Biennale (2010) and the 3rd Thessaloniki Biennale (2011); and her work has been exhibited at the Saatchi Gallery, London; Maraya Art Center, Sharjah; Institut Du Monde Arabe, Paris; American University Museum, Washington DC; Abrons Art Center, NY: and MoMA PS1, NY and the Africa Center, NY. Recently Ayari's work has been included in Phaidon’s “Great Women Painters.” She lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.