Visiting the studio of an artist is not only a necessity, but a privilege, especially if it is a large organized studio-apartment, where the works of the artist are well placed, a structured place where the artist can work, a succession of spaces where one walks slowly…to discover the paintings currently in progress, to browse to the beat of surprising materials and ideas that will become installations. The show is more than worthwhile, and one can feel the productive excitement. A follow-up visit allows the visitor to observe the finished fabrics and other materials being worked on, observe unusual three-dimensional works, and most especially to have the opportunity to converse with the owner and author, immersed in the excitement of future creations, even though her upcoming exhibit is just around the corner…of the coming week. We are talking about Soraya Abu Naba’a’s studio.
No one doubts that Soraya Abu Naba’a’s upcoming exhibit is an event in itself. The National Gallery of Fine Arts has never featured such a diverse, daring and extensive individual exhibit on the impressive Hall of the Dome Gallery, even in its verticality, and the four adjacent second floor exhibit halls without ever repeating itself. Rather than adopting a chronological placement, the artist – who is her own museographer- has segmented the spaces, based on the works being exhibited, but does not rule out other creative surprises: she never stops (re)inventing.
Soraya thus creates attention and contemplation focuses, different … A daring initiative that will have positive results if, no matter the raw materials used, the process or category, the interest grows and renews itself, and if the general public and the artist herself, are equally surprised.
The challenge was met head on and the end result was a true success. Three conditions were fundamental in this process: talent, passion, and great effort on the part of the artist. Much physical labor, for days on end, finally brought forth the concepts and, even more, continued to work to find formal solutions at the same time the programmed pieces were being mounted.
Interestingly enough, another surprise factor comes into the picture: the demands placed on herself by artist Soraya Abu Naba’a, be it in her paintings, drawings, videos, mixed techniques and installations that include a construction area with scaffolding and a marketplace. The sensitivity and originally of the overall set shines through, without ruling out playful discoveries… We could perhaps object to the sibylline title of the exhibition, « A Moment’s Interception. » Do they want to confuse us, or simply appeal to the interpretative powers of the spectator, or will they become part of this art game?
A Ten-Year Moment
This so-called interception of a moment…refers us to a full decade of searching and practicing art. Soraya Abu Naba’a has dedicated herself to drawing and painting from her early adolescent years, producing articulated and coordinated morphologies. They are not repeated or broken; her work changes and moves forward.
In this evolutionary process of an established talent, despite her youth, the artist has consciously distanced herself from traditional figurations although she returns to registering lines, modulations and circles that represent or suggest areas of the human body. It is surprising the way she, almost systematically, brings together – almost coinciding – her paintings, of her reference and model, bonding the subject and its pictorial image. An excellently produced video reveals a unique method used by the artist. We truly enjoy her interest in demonstrating her techniques and secrets.
In a way, by renewing the genre, drawing and painting, she challenges the inseparable dynamics of these techniques while maintaining the rigorous requirements of the work at hand, of a pleasant clarity in her execution, and the impeccable construction of compositions. The formal and intellectual aspects of her works come into play simultaneously.
In the early years, beginning in 2005, her works evoked cellular tissues, biologically processed, as a kind of accelerated mitosis. We identify some cellular metaphors – mothers and daughters – the proliferation of filaments and synaptic communications which suggested microorganisms, procreated from inspiration and an uncontrollable impulse, on paper or canvas. Soraya brings these pieces up to date, placing them in a hall with illuminated walls…that she effusively…spray-painted. This is Soraya’s “street-art!” We can almost visualize her walking with spray-paint in hand, staining the walls of the city!
Her Recent Work
Regarding the pictorial aspects of her latest production, where she managed to integrate the cellular references, she manages to present colors and structural components in different formats, depending on unique and polyptic supports that combine circuits and morphologies. She generously uses light colors in white spaces, illuminating the entire piece and easing the tension.
This painting is not afraid to refer to women and motherhood, to poverty – be it rural or urban – and domestic work in the Dominican Republic, even close to Haiti. She creates portraits – sometimes of the entire body – demonstrating her mastery of real-imaginary portraits. Her subject matter comes from the humble protagonists of Dominican society, be they anonymous or well known. Soraya Abu Naba’a reveals: « My source of inspiration are the people I see and their constant struggle to exist. In them I see the face of a country. My intention with this approach is to revive the portrait of a society, taking its essence and adapting it to a new world. »
We also found in this very special « hall of fame gallery, » portraits of relatives that were treated the same way. Soraya has not lost the habit of capturing members of her family…as chosen models who she manages to transfigure. No matter who her heroes are, be they close or not, there is no personal or social discrimination.
Beyond the Paintings
A specific material that Soraya has methodically and passionately researched is the “pellice,” a specific sort of tapestry made from tiny pieces of cloth. They are easily seen displayed along the country’s Duarte Highway, near the town of Bonao, and we certainly have wished their designs could be more creative. The artist captured the possibilities this artisanal technique offers by transforming it into an unusual network that climbs up walls and covers floors with its twists and extensions. A proliferation of colors and shapes, holes and cuttings, invade the space! It is impossible not to be surprised, and once again a mysterious essence accompanies the clarity of the creation. This is what many refer to as extended painting, which is both sculpture and installation, art and handicraft, with the guided participation of diligent hands that remain until the ultimate aesthetic result is accomplished….
Obviously, although the artist is primarily a painter-painter with a solid formation in drawing, she demonstrates an insatiable curiosity since installations captivate her at the plastic level. She is not afraid to take risks, and that’s how she managed to raise a giant structure, in the very center of the Dome, similar to a circular thatch-roof hut which includes scaffolding and photographs taken by her. Surrounding the hut is a picturesque border-region popular marketplace filled with all sorts of trinkets and rows of shoes! Soraya Abu Naba’a has greedily multiplied her forms of expression, making it impossible to deny her voracious creativity…
Soraya Abu Naba’a brings with her the faculty of evolution that is certainly not common. This is because of her talent, energy and unlimited work that knows no boundaries. However, when we walk through her exhibition at the National Gallery of Fine Arts we should discuss “revolution” rather than « evolution. » She revolutionized the spaces, as had never been done before at the palace of culture, by displaying a series of pieces that leave us in awe. Soraya’s future in contemporary art is open, promising and unpredictable. She should continue investing in herself, investigating and inventing!
Marianne de Tolentino
ADCA / AICA