Zawyeh Gallery hosts Palestinian artist Rana Samara’s Inner Sanctuary show - GulfToday

Zawyeh Gallery hosts Palestinian artist Rana Samara’s Inner Sanctuary show

Zawyeh Gallery 2

Rana Samara’s rooms are warm and full of colour.

Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer

In her new exhibition at Zawyeh Gallery, Dubai, titled Inner Sanctuary (till Aug 28), Palestinian artist Rana Samara presents her personal and intimate space, which reveals a layer of deep emotions connected with these places.

From the comfort of her lounge to a corner in her favourite cafe, she explores the settings that embrace her daily life. Along the way, she portrays her inner sanctuary, visually and sentimentally.

Samara depicts the inner side of her world with fine details, incorporating daily objects and furnishing. She uses her usual signature of charming colours and decorative motifs, to illustrate familiar locations pinned on her daily map; a lively studio, a neat kitchen, a colourful bedroom, corners of several cafes and bars, and even a waveless, abandoned swimming pool.

She uses colours, motifs and shapes to convey her sentiments, displaying serenity, anxiety or frustration. For example, the painting of a hospital room with a half-opened white curtain and a UV bag stand placed next to a bed, conveys an unsettling feeling.


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The scattered red tubes on the surface of the colourful floors show commotion, as if there was an emergency. Another artwork depicting an empty bed in a hospital covered with white sheets and an air conditioning system on the wall, reflects coldness and stuffiness, despite the colourful motifs on the walls.

A bedroom with peacock feathers painted in the background with several ladders standing around gives a feeling of lightness, weightlessness and a connection with the skies. Some of her rooms are warm and full of love and colour — one of which appears as a studio with various window sills, bathrooms and various seating areas.

The way she executes floors in her artworks is revealing, as they hint at her sentiments towards the rooms she paints. Sometimes they are vibrantly full of pretty motifs; other times they look like glass, fragile and colourless.

Zawyeh Gallery 1  Rana Samara’s art is usually full of vibrant, pretty motifs.

In some paintings, she uses sharp and edgy squares, which also increases a feeling of disquiet. She also continues to leave out perhaps one central aspect in her paintings — humans, except in one artwork. For Samara, it seems humans are not essential, though the evidence of their presence is. Hence, there is a subtle focus in the series on their traces. Records of their imprints can be found everywhere.

One can see a suit hanging over closed curtains in a bedroom; a kitchen with a slipper in the middle of the floor; another kitchen with plates and food left over; a window sill with pots of plants and cozy chairs with cushions.

Absence could be a way to capture moments that people leave behind. It is an attempt at emancipation from the restraints imposed by their presence and an opportunity to reveal concealed feelings of deep sentiments, whether joyful or gloomy.

In one work, Samara paints a young woman sitting on a sofa facing the viewer, while wearing a training suit. She rests comfortably on a small blanket while holding her head, as if thinking or meditating. The figure blends with the room’s background, while a gas container appears in a far corner.

Growing up in what she refers to as a typical Palestinian family, Samara’s practice has been heavily influenced by this and her observations of the roles women play. Through her work, she explores societal norms, sexuality, gender roles and other factors associated with modern Palestinian life, focusing on the less obvious ones that underpin daily routine.

She particularly focuses on women, usually those who reside in more rural communities or overcrowded refugee camps, and those who continue to be blighted by both conservative traditions and the pressures of life under occupation. She demystifies social taboos and translates them into large, bold, colourful canvases that are both social statements and artistic creations.

“My first academic experience with the visual arts,” she says, “was at the Palestine Technical College in Ramallah where I completed a two-year diploma in graphic design. However, the programme did not fulfill my desire for knowledge. In the theory lectures, we always touched upon Contemporary Art — it made me want to explore this area in greater depth.

“I therefore applied to the International Academy of Art in Palestine to study BA Contemporary Visual Arts. It provided me with the opportunity to develop a broad scope in the understanding and practice of visual arts across the medium of photography, installation, painting, video, social intervention and theoretical studies.” Samara has participated in several exhibitions, including Contemporary Istanbul, Turkey, 2019; Art Dubai, 2017, 2019 and Beirut Art Fair, Lebanon, 2017, in addition to holding several local solo exhibitions in Ramallah and Jerusalem.

Ziad Anani, Founder of Zawyeh Gallery, says that “our mission is to get Palestinian artists known around the world. Palestinian artists are unique: our work is related to our struggle. Some artists use traditional Palestinian symbolism and explore our struggle for land and freedom, others look at personal struggles. Art offers people a relationship to Palestine that can’t be taken from the media.” Zawyeh is an independent visual art gallery founded in Ramallah, Palestine, in 2013. In 2020, it expanded its space by opening in a second location at Alserkal Avenue in Dubai. It has participated in a number of art fairs, including Paris Contemporary Art Show, P/CAS (2019), Contemporary Istanbul (2019), Art Dubai (2021, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016), Abu Dhabi Art (2019, 2018) and Beirut Art Fair (2018, 2017).

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