Cyprus Mail

The potential of the unfamiliar

Liminal. A word of transitions, boundaries, thresholds; of separations and re-emergences and betweens; of fluidities in time and place. That sense of waiting, poised, for the next chapter to begin, or the emotion of shifting spaces: deserted schools, disused stairwells, forgotten attics, the empty rooms in our busy households… This is liminality. And it is, says Nicosia-based painter Lara Sophie Benjamin, a recurring theme in her artwork.whatson feature2 Lara Sophie Benjamin

Presenting her first solo exhibition, Reverberations, this coming week, Lara is fascinated by the idea of liminal spaces: a glance into a life, a home or a room which takes us across the threshold of concrete societal values and illuminates the potential of unfamiliar places and lives.
“I’m often to be found wandering the streets with my camera, taking photos of the interior of houses,” Lara explains. “I’m getting a glimpse into other people’s rooms; that’s somebody’s life in there – looking in to one moment in one room, a glimpse into the liminal spaces of life that I find so visually interesting. There’s an element of both escapism and creativity in taking this inspiration and committing it to canvas.”

For Lara, the creative process is an intimate reaction to her surroundings: her outer and inner worlds coming together through her connection to her materials and the activity of putting brush to canvas. Working intuitively, her painting, she explains, is “an unending process of exploration and discovery based on formal and aesthetic qualities and the versatility of paint.

“I’ve devoted my life to painting,” Lara expands. “I’ve designed my life around it, even my job” – while Lara studied art at the Camberwell College of Art in London, the Cyprus College of Art and completed an MA in Art Practice from the University of East Anglia, she currently works in the media – “is part-time so that I can be in my studio as much as possible.”

Her passion, dedication and talent for painting has clearly paid off: although Lara has, in the past, participated in innumerable group shows and projects, Reverberations is her first solo exhibition to date. Named for a quote from French psychiatrist Eugene Minkowski – ‘If, having fixed the original form in our mind’s eye, we ask ourselves how that form comes alive and fills with life, we discover a new dynamic and vital category, a new property of the universe: reverberation’ – Lara’s exhibition features roughly 20 pieces mostly ranging in size from 30 x 40cm to a staggering 100 x 80cm. “And a few are even larger,” she adds, mentioning that all are oil on canvas, “my preferred medium, the most flexible medium which allows for the most diverse results and true experimentation.
“Reverberations is a combination of subject matter: the associations with spaces and the visual qualities, the way light falls in spaces coupled with the painting process itself,” Lara reveals. Intriguing everyday subjects – chiaroscuro instances made intimate through a complex interplay of light, shadow and emotion – both reveal and protect her subjects, collapsing time in on itself before allowing it to burst onto the canvas in a surge of light and colour.

Offset by flashes of turbulent scarlet and burning umber, Lara works for the main in a tranquil pageant of terracottas, sepias and saffrons, duck egg, dove and champagne, capturing on canvas the private moments and secret places of liminality. It’s exquisite artwork that’s very much about the hidden, the veiled and concealed: an ambered instant which encapsulates the private moments and the secret places and spaces of life. There’s a depth, a complexity, a story in each piece: an absorbing narrative just beyond our grasp – whole lives abridged to one split second and caught in “an experimentation of paint…

“That need to experiment with paint and push the painting process has been important throughout my projects. It’s a constant adventure: what you can do and how you can express with paint, how you apply it, colour, layer it – it’s an infinite possibility curve. For me personally,” Lara adds, “everything happens organically, evolving out of former endeavours. So Reverberations has developed from my previous project, On The Threshold: from playing with the concepts of ‘inside’ and ‘outside’. And,” she concludes, “from the idea of suspension of time and place, and from being ‘between’.” In a word, from liminality. Heart-breaking, thought-provoking and beautiful.

By Lara Sophie Benjamin at the Apocalypse Gallery, Nicosia, runs from February 1 to 14. For more information visit, or call 22 300150

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