Juxtaposing the real and the unreal, works on show at a Nicosia studio capture the energy and the serenity of the season. ALIX NORMAN takes it in
At this time of year, life revolves around trying to keep warm and wondering where the light went. The delights of Christmas and New Year have come and gone, and we’ve a whole load of winter weariness heading our way over the next couple of months. So our best bet is to embrace the weather, do as the Danes do, and hygge.
A concept which originated in northern Europe and has, more recently, been embraced by the rest of the world, hygge is the art of surviving winter: creating a warming, soothing, comforting environment during the coldest times of the year. And while there’s no exact English equivalent, the best way to understand the idea (and bring a little warmth to the coldest month of the year) is to head down to Nicosia’s Hugå studio, a store in which everything’s coming up hygge.
“Hugå is all about creating a cosy space with pieces from the past: furniture and lighting with a story, brought back to life,” explains owner Aline Abdine. “It’s a delightfully relaxed browsing experience; a store where you can discover curated, beautifully restored mid-century pieces.”
Along with graceful lighting and cosy, clean-lined furniture, the studio also incorporates “a few newer, modern design objects by local designers and artists; items which complement the furniture and the idea of hygge,” reveals Aline. “Unique, handcrafted pieces which tell a story and evoke warmth and cosiness.” And included in this category, you’ll find artwork from Cyprus’ best up-and-coming artists…
“Our gallery space is something we started about a year ago,” adds Aline. “We send out an open call and choose submissions which fit in with our concept and design philosophy. So far we’ve showcased three professional artists whose work blends perfectly with our aesthetic: minimal, emotionally evocative, beautiful. And, until the end of January, we’re exhibiting 12 pieces by well-known professional artist Lara Benjamin.
“We’ve found that these ongoing exhibitions not only add to the visual warmth of the store, they also create exposure for the artist through our social following,” says Aline. “In Lara’s case, we’re dealing with an artist who is already well-known, and a number of her exhibited pieces have already been sold; customers always note the beauty of her work: there’s a real juxtaposition of the real and unreal, energy and serenity in her oils on canvas. Her work speaks to everyone,” says Aline, “and sits well in any space.”
Lara’s graceful abstracts play on the mid-century palette: elegant mints, softest pinks, petrol blues and buttercup yellows harmonising with a spectrum of ivories and creams to perfectly complement the studio’s pieces. “Initially, Aline approached me through an open call,” Lara explains. “I know and love the shop, and was delighted to accept a commission inspired by the concept of hygge.”
With her deep-rooted connection to her materials and the activity of painting, Lara worked intuitively on the commissions, drawing her subject matter from her everyday surroundings. “There’s a significant resonance in ordinary sights and spaces,” she suggests. “Familiar shapes lose their meaning and become part of a modified actuality in which subjective and selective readings and the light and the forms within come into play.”
Customers can, of course, buy the art as well as enjoying the overall aesthetic: clever vignettes and warm lighting highlight each piece: the 12 canvases start at €150. “I generally have 20 or so works in progress at any one time,” Lara reveals. “It’s part of an artistic process which involves an unending exploration based on formal and aesthetic qualities and the versatility of paint.
“With this series, I’ve created pieces that harmonise with the concept of the studio, complementing its carefully selected one-of-a-kind pieces,” explains Lara. “Hugå is such a warm, beautifully curated space,” she adds. “It has a really stunning aesthetic that pleases the senses – exactly what we all hope our homes could be, especially during the coldest time of year!”
Hugå is exhibiting works by local artist Lara Benjamin until the end of January. The studio is open Monday to Friday from 4 to 7pm, and on Saturdays from 10am to 2pm (closed on Wednesdays and Sundays). For more information, call 99 370073 or visit https://hugastudio.com/