Sula Rubens RWS
Since graduating in 1989 from Central/ St Martins School of Art, Sula has practiced as a painter and printmaker. Now living in Suffolk, she has lived, worked and exhibited in many cities including Amsterdam in Holland, Gdańsk in Poland, St. Petersburg in Russia as well as the rural landscapes of France, Spain, Greece and Ireland.
Often travelling to paint, Sula has immersed herself in various landscapes, buildings and their people. She has collaborated with artists, poets and musicians nationally and internationally. Wherever she is, close observation through drawing is integral to her work.
In 2017 Sula embarked on a series entitled “Kin” which had been on her mind for a while. The catalyst for the series was a self portrait made in Spring 2017, (which was selected for the exhibition of the Ruth Borchard Self Portrait Prize.) Beginning as a self portrait, the figure evolved into a portrayal of ’every woman’ holding a child. The title also evolved as, “Protecting, till the danger past, with human love.” (from “A Prayer for my Son” by W.B. Yeats). “Kin” began to take shape in the autumn of 2017. The primary focus of “Kin” is people. Although there is no direct reference in these works to current issues of the displacement and suffering of refugees, some of the people Sula paints are displaced, struggling to survive and protect their kin. Children play whether they are in a refugee camp or in their own street. As the Kin series evolved, Sula came into contact with the Syrian playwright Liwaa Yazji after seeing “Goats” at the Royal Court Theatre in London, also meeting the Syrian artist Issam Kourbaj. Books such as “The Optician of Lampedusa” by Emma Jane Kirby informed images as well as continuous newspapers and other media.
In Sula’s “Kin” paintings and drawings, the people are transient figures moving through spaces she creates for them on canvas, maps or book pages. In some works, sky, land, sea, maps or buildings show through their painted and drawn forms. She portrays them outside, vulnerable to the sea and the sky and sometimes with mountains in the distance, carrying a sense of the distant lands from which they might have travelled. There are moments of fun and pathos: children with their animals or playing despite desperate circumstances; and above all people caring for each other, recognising their kinship in adversity.
The paint is laid lightly, just enough to convey their presence. (“We are so lightly here”, Leonard Cohen) The viewer can see just enough. There is no directly explained or implied back story. We view these people as they are at this moment. Their dignified presence in these paintings and drawings is at once moving and life-affirming.
Sula has exhibited widely in the UK and Europe, most recently in her solo show "Kin" at Mandell's Gallery in Norwich. Sula has had a number of residencies in the UK and Holland, and her work is in a number of private and public collections in the UK, Holland, and the USA.
For this current exhibition, People and Places, Sula has collaborated with an ekphrastic poet Sue Wallace-Shaddad who has written a poem for each of Sula's paintings, drawing out the essence of the work in the written word. The poems are on display for reading (and taking away) in the Gallery. Sue lives in Suffolk and her poems are published by London Grip, Ink Sweat and Tears, Brittle Star, Poetry Space, Dempsey and Windle and in anthologies and magazines. She is Secretary of the Suffolk Poetry Society and is currently completing an MA in Writing Poetry with Newcastle /Poetry School, London. Her earlier career was with the British Council.
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