Navine G. Khan-Dossos (b. 1982, London) is a visual artist working between London and Athens. Her interests include Orientalism in the digital realm, geometry as information and decoration, image calibration, and Aniconism in contemporary culture. As a painter, Khan-Dossos uses the medium and its history to ask fundamental questions about the ways in which we see, understand, and, crucially, represent the world around us. Her work suggests that contrary to the mediatic impulses of the present, we must not rely upon, nor constantly reproduce, the figurative language of television, online media, videos, and the endlessly circulating images that shape our shared imagination of reality. Rather, she is invested in the discovery of a new language that better reflects the patterns and connections that underlie these images and their related experiences.
Over six months in 2018, artist Navine G. Khan-Dossos held workshops with patients in the Grand Union and Great Western wards, the Allergy and Outpatients departments at the St Mary’s Hospital, as well as at The Showroom. Together, they made a series of collages looking at the relationship between colours, and thought about what colours they would like to see in the hospital’s walls, the ceilings, the doors, and the furniture. POLYCHROMY PLAYS was the resulting project: a functional colour palette generated from these discussions, collages, and paintings, which can be potentially used in the future. It was made by giving the patients agency in their environment, and allowing them to imagine ways to improve the spaces in which they found themselves for short, long, or intermittent stays. They, better than anyone else, know what it is like to spend time in these spaces and should be part of the dialogue about how to improve the way they feel during their treatment. Colour has an important role to play in this discussion.
In June 2019 Khan-Dossos' project There Is No Alternative opened at The Showroom. This performative, durational installation combined live painting, a research archive, and a series of workshops, talks, and events open to the public. The project, Khan-Dossos’ first in a UK public institution, featured her on-going research into the complex context of the UK government’s development of pre-crime and surveillance policies, questioning the politics of representation and the positioning of care that the strategies around those policies generate.
Her work often responds to a sense of place, and increasingly takes the form of murals and site-specific installations. In Athens, this has manifested as room-size installations at the Benaki Museum of Islamic Art animating the city’s complex history and identity between East and West Imagine a Palm Tree, 2016), and at the Victoria Square Project social space, where Freedom and Equality, or Death (2017) proposes a new national flag. Also in 2017, the vast outdoor mural Echo Chamber in Eindhoven reflected on the depiction of European converts to radical Islam, while A Year Without Movement, a series of paintings on the walls of London’s historical House of Saint Barnabas exposed the connections between representation, standardization, and control.
Duration, interaction and communication form key contours of her work, whether painting in public and in dialogue with audiences in institutions over many weeks (My TV Ain’t HD, That’s Too Real, Witte de With, 2015), undertaking multi-day performances of continual painting (Capacity, Athens Art Fair, 2017), or producing extensive series of work influenced by news stories and current events over months (Converts, Van Eyck Academie, 2015). Her work frequently emphasizes the contrast between the timeless and the ephemeral, whether in the painting over of temporary murals, her own effacement of underlying works in ongoing series where each iteration is applied over the last, or her choices of material, from traditional icon boards to cardboard and found wood, and the balancing of classical training and technique with a constant reappraisal and critique of the contemporary.
Khan-Dossos studied History of Art at Cambridge University, Arabic at Kuwait University, Islamic Art at the Prince’s School of Traditional Art in London, and holds an MA in Fine Art from Chelsea College of Art & Design, London. In 2014/2015, she was a participant at the Van Eyck Academie in Maastricht (NL). She has exhibited and worked with various institutions, including SALT (Istanbul), The 4th Istanbul Design Biennial, The Van Abbemuseum (Eindhoven) The Museum of Islamic Art (Doha), Witte de With (Rotterdam), The Delfina Foundation (London), The Library of Amiens (Amiens), Leighton House Museum (London), The Benaki Museum of Islamic Art (Athens) and the A.M. Qattan Foundation (Ramallah). She has published work in The White Review and The Happy Hypocrite. She is currently a tutor on the MA program at the Dutch Art Institute (Arnhem) and a member of the Substantial Motion Research Network.
Image credit: Navine G. Khan-Dossos, There Is No Alternative. Installation view, The Showroom, July 2019. Photos: Dan Weill Photography