Nathalie Yared is a Lebanese artist mostly known for reviving lost symbolic national icons and extracting them from our collective memory to lend them a new life of their own. Her furniture line (Sumi Furnitures) made of recycled wood, decorated with kitsch vintage retail brands from Lebanon and the Levant region, has gained great popularity. She talks to ArabAd about toying with nostalgia and the appeal such pop cultural references have on the young generation.
How come referencing the past is a recurrent theme in your design pieces?
Not only my design pieces but most of my work is in relation to tradition and the past. That is why I restore old houses and church murals. It is also why I teach the traditional techniques of decorative painting that have been used for more than 100 years and didn't change much since then, or when I revisit old patterns and logos in my furniture.
I believe that we have a lot to learn from the past and that creation is stronger when its done within a certain continuity.
"Sometimes, it just feels good to remember how it was to hold a Bonjus at a birthday party."
Why do pop references have such an appeal on people?
There is something soothing in the logos of our childhood. They project us back in time to a happy period. We were kids when all these logos were part of our environment, when every thing was different.
Our way of life has drastically changed since then and we became adults with responsibilities; and sometimes, it just feels good to remember how it was to hold a Bonjus at a birthday party or to watch a YES ad on the only black and white TV we had at home.
What's your favourite piece, and what's the best selling item?
It's very difficult to choose a favourite piece. I really like them all, because I don't paint anything I don't like and each time I am painting a piece it becomes my favourite.
However, if I had to choose, it would be YES for its simplicity; Bonjus for this beautiful pineapple and Waraq el Sham for the oriental intricate design.
As for the best selling items, I may say Bonjus and yellow Chiclets. Then comes the rolling paper (waraq el sham).
Is the younger generation interested in your pop offerings? If so how do you explain this appeal it has on them?
My typical customer is the person of my generation who had the same childhood and relates the same way I do to all these brands and objects. I also make sure that even though they are hand painted, they remain at a reasonable price so they are affordable to all. They also happen to be practical furniture. For example, my revisited tabliyeh is ideal by the bed and can be placed in the lap and used as a small table for the laptop or a cosy breakfast in bed.