“It is my most personal show,” announced Egyptian artist Youssef Nabil ahead of Memory of a Happy Place. A sound statement, considering he has already taken part in more than 100 international exhibitions over a 30-year career.
For this iteration, Nabil asked his mother to take in his short film The Beautiful Voyage. She recites his favorite poem, Ithaca by the 19th-century Greek poet Constantine P Cavafy. The film features himself alongside his muse, the British actor Charlotte Rampling. The two met in 2011 and she has since featured in his exhibitions and books, and his recent solo show. “Charlotte is a brilliant actress, but also a great and profound human being, very sensitive and attentive to every detail,” states Nabil. Rampling reads the artist’s deep musings on life’s ephemeral nature, his observations, questions, and reflections on life, death, and departure.
The show also offers a new series of 20 self-portrait and landscape photographs. Nabil has been practicing the art of self-portraiture since his departure from Egypt in 2003. They serve as metaphors for his feelings of exile, but also explore themes like fate and memory. “They are about my observation and interrogation of life and existence,” offers Nabil, “about how fragile we all are. Knowing that we are just passing by in life, then leaving.”
Youssef Nabil’s Memory of a Happy Place is on at Galerie Obadia in Paris from March 19 to May 8, and then at The Third Line Gallery in Dubai from May 26 to July 5.
Originally published in the March 2022 issue of Vogue Arabia