There’s no other way to describe visual artist Sara Riel than fuss-free. When we meet to discuss her latest exhibition, ‘Þessi’, showing 19-25 May at the Listamenn gallery, it becomes instantly clear that she doesn’t want to eviscerate her own work by indulging in self-analysis. “I’m at a stage in life where that bores me,” she says firmly. “It’s truly about seeing it, not the whole rationality of it.”
This is the first time Sara has tackled humans as a subject of her art; even so, at first glance her collection of portraits seems to be cloaked in anonymity, as one is never able to discern the exact characteristics of her models. However, ‘Þessi’ (which means “this one”) is all about the human experience. It’s a record of mood, of states of mind, a glimpse of stereotypes and of the judgements we draw about people in our everyday life. What do we really know about someone, when all we see is a mask?
Into the unknown
‘Þessi’ was born out of pure experimentation while Riel was working on another project. “There is no rationality in what I’m trying to portray. You’re stepping into the unknown, experimenting, trying out what pops in mind,” she tells me. “All I’m searching for is a feeling; it’s poetry; the stereotypes that I kind of know but haven’t really analysed; something we could all connect to on some common ground.”
Despite stressing the importance of enjoying solitary labour, Sara partnered with another artist when she had to implement text in her work for catalogue purposes. Poet Kristín Ómarsdóttir drew inspiration from her pictures but delivered a totally independent body of work. “She sent back something really beautiful, surreal and fitting,” Sara says. “It also gave the piece a new layer of meaning. But I guess it’s not for me to explain my pictures,” she quickly adds. “I think that’s the beauty of poetry and visual art.”
Info: ‘Þessi’ is showing 19 May-25 June, Listamenn Gallery, Skúlagata 32. Join the event on Facebook.