Nabil Kanso (1940-2019) was a Lebanese-American artist based in New York. Raised in Beirut, Kanso was prevented from attending school as a teenager because of ongoing civil crises. Seeking education, in 1961 he moved to London to study maths, then onto New York where he earned a BA and MA at NYU in Philosophy and Political Science.
Kanso came to artistic prominence during the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990). His movement, ‘Neo-Expressionism’, was useful in expressing this conflict. His focus was the trauma of warfare, the inability to return home, and the vast scale of human loss. His most famous series, ‘The Split of Life’, was ongoing throughout the civil war period and explored these themes..
"It is wrenching to see your whole country destroyed. All your memories, everything is gone. People are killing each other over religion. Now they all have the same religion: violence” (Kanso, 1984)
The Lebanese Civil War killed around 120,000 people, with one million fleeing the region. That is one fifth of the pre-war population. Kanso’s dedicated his life work to raising awareness of Lebanese and Middle Eastern conflicts. Art was both a political tool and a method to navigate his own grief.
“I have the opportunity to bring before the public a visual transmission of personal emotions, experiences, and visions. This, in the hope of engaging the viewer and establishing a dialogue about art and important issues affecting our lives.”