Wudu @ Minut Init Art Social

Ablution – the act of washing oneself – is a common ritual in many cultural and religious customs. Practical upkeep of personal hygiene becomes a symbolic cleansing gesture. In Sophia Kamal’s paintings, this practical-symbolic line of reasoning walks a tightrope, as the act of removing makeup becomes synonymous with the Islamic ablution procedure of Wuḍū. The water-covered faces in ‘I Am A Dream Still Dreaming’ and ‘Milk and Honey’ depict different stages of one washing up, its symmetrical physiognomy pointing to the paradox of showing beauty. Why put on makeup if it conceals the truth? What is clean and what is pure? Why paint if the truth can never be painted?

I Am Never the Same, Twice [picture taken from Sophia Kamal's Behance site]

Prominent facial features, slender fingers, and dramatic poses, identify Sophia’s subjects as real life models. Pink and turquoise hues highlight a prettiness that do not diminish, despite the figures’ fidgeting gestures and anguished tone seen in a number of works. Feminine concerns underlie bold stares in some creations, and the absence of expressive brushstrokes portrays a fragile confidence, especially in close-up depictions of skinny hands. This intimate approach departs significantly from other local artists who illustrate self-doubt – where melancholy manifests in figurative gestures, sombre moods, nostalgic effects – and drawn in an over-large scale that dilutes the picture’s impact.

The Freedom in Fear; I See What You Do Not See; Ocean Breathes Magic [picture taken from ibrokemyshades.blogspot.com]

A dozen small works occupy one wall and emit an iridescent glow, indicative of Sophia’s venturesome decision to exhibit with fluorescent lights. The artist’s studio is recreated on the gallery’s floor; vivid colours and illustrative details are subdued in this setting, but contribute to an overall introspective mood. Sophia’s pastel creations are the most attractive, and her hand drawings contrast with politically symbolic gestures commonly seen in local art. Looking at the artist’s previous student presentations, works such as ‘I Am Never the Same, Twice’ and ‘What Love Isn’t’ were last hung upside down, where the latter looks like a surreal landscape of ridges and cavities.  I need to wash my eyes.

What Love Isn't