Name: Nansy Khanano
Hometown: Born in Amman, Jordan, raised in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada.
Occupation: Currently working for the University of Toronto’s Office of Student Transition as a graphic designer.
Do you remember the first time you picked up a paintbrush? I don’t remember the exact moment I first picked up a paintbrush… I’m sure I was very young. To be honest, I was never really into painting as a child. I always wanted to be an animation artist. I was so interested in anime and manga. I grew up watching Sailor Moon, Pokemon and Inuyasha. These mainstream anime [titles] lead me into reading lesser-known manga novels. I was always doodling images of anime characters that I like and eventually I started designing my own characters. It was just a hobby for most of my life. When I reached high school, I decided I wanted to devote more of my time to art and started painting.
What is art? Art has so many different meanings. To me art is a form of expression. It doesn’t necessarily have to express your own personal emotions or beliefs, although it can, but it can also be a form of expression in a different sense. For a very long time visual art was used to record historical events, but with the advent of digital technology art has evolved into so much more than a device for recording. Now art can be full of emotion or absent of it entirely. Art can be movement, or the absence of movement; it can be colorful or bleak, loud or understated. Art makes you feel. But most importantly, art makes you think. And that, to me, is what makes art so overwhelmingly powerful.
What inspires you? I’m inspired by injustice. I have a high empathy threshold. I feel so much for people and I really want to show the world the problems that we face as a society, not just here in Canada, but all over the planet. I feel as though we are connected as a planet and people will always be connected in one way or another. It’s so important that we are constantly aware of our surroundings.
You recently started a new website called Contempo Arty Toronto. Why did you decide to create this site? As an art major I have had the incredible opportunity to study art from different time periods and from all over the world. Many of my courses concentrate on art from different locales. I have never really had an opportunity to study contemporary Canadian art. This is sort of like my own side project to learn as much as I can about the contemporary art scene in Toronto and maybe get into it myself!
Will it feature art by you? Yes! Eventually I want to have an open gallery with images completed by me. I will also be selling prints and the originals.
What’s your favorite medium to work in and why? My favorite medium to work with is paint. Oils I like using on larger pieces because it takes a little longer to dry and I can take my time with them. The blending in oil paint is so smooth. It’s really a joy to start on an empty canvas and put the paint down in layers waiting for it to really come together in a flurry of colors and textures! Acrylics are great too, especially when you can use different mediums to create different effects.
What advice do you have for someone that wants to paint, but is reluctant to do so? Painting is highly therapeutic and the best part about it is [that] you don’t have to know what you're doing to get really amazing results. The best way to figure out if you like something is to try it. I would start with acrylic paints because they are really easy to clean. You can get any of these materials from the dollar store so it’s not very expensive to start! Once you’ve gotten a taste for it, you can invest in higher quality equipment.
Who is your favorite artist? Wow, I don’t know if I can answer this question with just one artist. I have so many interests in so many different artists. The artists who have most inspired me are: Artemisia Gentileschi, J.M.W. Turner, Mary Cassatt, Vincent Van Gogh, Frida Kahlo, Marina Abramovic, Salvador Dali… etc. I am fascinated and inspired by artists whose thoughts are far beyond their own time periods.
What is your favorite painting? This is a difficult question to respond to. I have so many favourite paintings, I don’t know if I can pick just one. My favorites [are]: "Judith and Holofernes (1612-21)" by Artemisia Gentileschi, "The Slave Ship (1840)" by J.M.W. Turner, "Liberty Leading the People (1830)" by Eugene Delacroix, "Woman in Black at the Opera (1880)" by Mary Cassatt and [much] more! Many of my favorite paintings have far deeper meaning behind them than just what you see at face value. I encourage everyone to look further into art they are interested in. I guarantee you will learn something about our history as humans that you did not know before!
How many pieces of art have you created? Too many to count! I would say probably over 300 in my lifetime!
Which pieces of art were you most proud of and why? The pieces that I am most proud of are those that make my viewers feel something.
You displayed a painting of a man with blue hair and blue stained hands at the Assyrian Arts Fair in Mississauga. Can you tell us about this piece? I was inspired by Montreal based artist Eliza Griffiths. Her figures are paired with unassuming colors like neon green and pink while having an androgynous feel. I love her use of color pallet and her controversial figures.
How does the situation concerning minorities in the Middle East, namely Assyrians, make you feel? Civilizations are marked by their identities, if you take away their identity, it’s as if the civilization never existed. I am absolutely disgusted by the actions of radical terrorism in the Middle East. The destruction of precious artifacts is not only a crime, but also a sin.
Where do you see yourself in five years? I hope to start up my own business in the next five years in graphic design.
If you could go back in time and change something, what would you change? Nothing. The earth is highly resilient. I think humanity is fated to achieve great things, but in order to achieve, terrible things need to be endured.
What’s one thing you love about Canada? I love the beauty of our vast land! Anywhere you go in Canada, you will find beauty. I would like to explore this amazing country one day and maybe take a sketchbook along with me!
What can you share with us that no one really knows about you? I like chicken salads with mushrooms. I take my coffee with milk and shot of Hazelnut. I would probably run away and live in Florence, Italy. I have a spunky baby sister, she’s 15, who inspires me everyday. I drive a badass stick shift baby blue Suzuki swift plastered with Hello Kitty memorabilia.
Portions of this interview have been edited.