Navine G. Dossos* (she/her, b. 1982) is a visual artist working between London and Aegina. Her interests include Orientalism in the digital realm, geometry as information and decoration, image calibration, and Aniconism in contemporary culture.
She has developed a form of geometric abstraction that merges the traditional Aniconism of Islamic art with the algorithmic nature of the interconnected world we live in. This is not the formal abstraction we understand from the western history of art, but something essentially informational, and committed to investigation and communication.
Dossos is a painter, and uses this 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 which shape our shared imagination of reality. 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.
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 Showroom (London), Z33 (Hasselt), The 4th Istanbul Design Biennial, SALT (Istanbul), The Taipei Biennial, Capital of Culture (Matera), The Van Abbemuseum (Eindhoven), Witte de With (Rotterdam), The Delfina Foundation (London), The Museum of Islamic Art (Doha), 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 (Volume 8: Fresh Hell).
She is a member of the Substantial Motion Research Network
She is also part of the Aegina-based collective Vessel.
*What’s In A Name?
Navine G. Khan-Dossos is an exact anagram of Vanessa Hodgkinson – my legal name. It arrived fully formed by another person’s playful mind, scribbled on a napkin in biro in a Korean restaurant in London almost a decade ago, as part of a discussion with this fellow artist about identity, and the names with which we are born, and the names we might choose for ourselves as adults. As soon as I saw this name written out, I felt intuitively in that moment that I should take it on, for all its obvious complexity and problems.
I saw this name as part of my ongoing work about appropriation, text, image and the way we identify ourselves and others through markers of culture, politics, religion and race. So in some ways, the name at that time of taking it was a prodding of a grey area – to take a problem that could not be solved and make it central to my practice, to be discussed and critical about, which it always has been.
I did not chose that name in order to pass myself off as anything other than what and who I am. I have never hidden my legal name and always answered openly any questions about how it came about and why I chose to take it on as part of my work.
In recent years I’ve also felt that the times we live in are shifting radically and identity has become a rightfully fierce battleground on which we must all play our part. I never changed my name legally (despite my deep discomfort with Vanessa – a name made up by Jonathan Swift for a lover with whom things did not go well – and Hodgkinson – the Son of the Kin of Roger – patriarchy three layers thick) because I felt that I, and the world, would evolve in ways we can not always envisage and that name might rightfully need not just be questioned but also evolve into a different form.
Through many meaningful and constructive conversations with friends and colleagues I’ve understood that in particular Khan is not a name I can continue to live by because for some people it has become something offensive rather than provocative. And so, because ‘offensive’ is not something I want to be, I have chosen to remove it from my professional name.
My choice to retain Navine is because it relates to the Sanskrit word for ‘new’ and for me represented and still represents the new beginning that my name change gave me as I stepped into a new phase of my life. I live by this name day to day and accept it as a gift of possibility that it is my responsibility to be true to.
The G. is for George, the name taken by Georgiana Leonard, who passed herself off as a boy aboard a whaling ship in the mid-19th century, and whom I have made numerous works about.
And Dossos is not strictly a word in any language, although it is close to the Italian for a bump -dosso- like a speed bump in the road, in Greek it can relate to the word ‘to give’, and in Catalan, the plural of two.
A bumpy road, that splits and converges, but is always attempting to be generous and thoughtful where possible, seems not a bad combination of attributes to live by.
Navine G. Dossos
previously Navine G. Khan-Dossos
previously Vanessa Hodgkinson