I caught up with Reka Nyari at her solo show, “Punctured Ink”, at Fremin Gallery – where I was given a private preview. Although Reka is well-learned in many mediums, this show centered around her photographs of a fully tattooed model, viewed as scarification.
Scarification is a way to lacerate a surface and Reka Nyari did so on each piece shown in her exhibition.
Reka physically poked through her photographs in a chaotic manner, yet to my eye, it looked absolutely perfect. I got closer, I saw there were many different tools being used. It was as if the pressure of her hand forcing the tool through the paper made it appear to be some sort of alphabet; an underlying dialogue within her work that the viewer could possibly try to decipher. On some pieces, I actually thought I was reading text when, in fact, I was reading her pokes. When she was heavier handed, the pierced areas read louder and the smaller v shapes appeared to be in Morse code pattern.
Unlike painting or drawing on the surface of each print, the raised, brail-like holes are created to leave a permanent result, just as a tattoo does onto one’s skin. While the surface of an artwork, like skin, is typically preserved and or avoided, Nyari follows in the subject’s footsteps by purposely destroying the pristine surface in order to create a new narrative. The act taps into a long history of tribal scarification, which signified a right of passage, permitting the individual to transcend their past traumas and transforming their evolved selves. This notion grounds all of her works.Press Release
Reka agreed that something magical did happen as she began to scarify each photograph. There was a sense of breath like negative and positive space as she poked through the images of her beautifully tattooed subject. Her photographs are all of the same woman in black-and-white, and I do think Reka may begin exploring the use of color, or a different medium such as foil, in another possible series.
Reka knew her model well as they originally met in Paris. Her model felt completely vulnerable and comfortable, which you can see in the photos. She brought out these wonderful vignettes of her figure – yet I believe, some of the viewers would completely concentrate on the glorious ink patterns all over her subject’s body. The small circles that penetrate the surface of each picture are so individualized. Of course, making every piece – a one off even though each photograph was a limited edition run of 7. I found myself spending more time with Reka and enjoyed her company immensely.
About the Artist // Living and working in New York City, Reka Nyari’s practice spans from fashion and fine art photography and videography, to elaborate installation and performance pieces. Oscillating between mischievous eroticism and wistful splendor, her work employs and explores traditional ideals of beauty and gender to portray sexuality from a predominantly female perspective. Nyari’s images of nude figures are not strictly intended as alluring portraits – while deriving their emotional charge from the familiar motifs of erotic photography, they expand the pictorial vocabulary to the realm of narratives, layering in personal histories and fictitious content. Unapologetically, Nyari embeds luscious and empowered bodies in luminous landscapes or against staged backdrops. Nudity, gesture, gaze, as well as objects become intrinsically linked to the feminine identity.
Punctured Ink Press Release // Reka Nyari’s new series Punctured Ink incorporates works from Nyari’s ongoing, portrait project titled INK STORIES.
INK STORIES, which was introduced at Nyari’s very first solo gallery exhibit, consists of large-scale nude photographs that explore the concept of self-identity and female empowerment. The series joins six women together, all of who have faced adversity, to demonstrate the creation of a strengthened self-image through tattoos. Through highlighting the intricate woven threads of ink on each woman’s skin, Nyari can propose the idea that self-empowerment and reconciliation with one’s traumas can be linked to the act of greeting one’s “own skin” or inventing their own story.
Nyari has now elevated these intimate photographs in her new Punctured Ink series through the process of perforating botanical-like references into the surface of each image (thus making each one of a kind). Her inspiration to physically puncture the previously pristine photographic prints stemmed from a childhood memory that occurred while she was living in Finland: “I remembered my parents had this big pad of paper next to the home phone in Finland and I would use my mother’s sewing needles to poke patterns into the paper”.
This nostalgic memory in combination with the longing to apply her physical, painterly abilities resulted in the choice to transform these photographs via puncturing the paper. Unlike painting or drawing on the surface of each print, the raised, brail-like holes are created to leave a permanent result, just as a tattoo does onto one’s skin. While the surface of an artwork, like skin, is typically preserved and or avoided, Nyari follows in the subject’s footsteps by purposely destroying the pristine surface in order to create a new narrative. The act taps into a long history of tribal scarification, which signified a right of passage, permitting the individual to transcend their past traumas and transforming their evolved selves. This notion grounds all of her works.
In addition, Nyari’s choice to puncture nature-based patterns into each portrait also has its own significance. She stated that when “talking about scarification and getting over trauma, to me, nature is one of the most healing and beautiful elements.” As Nyari is emphasizing through her photographs, when you add a personal story onto the skin, it is a whole new layer that often becomes biographical. It translates a story to the audience of one’s past, future, and wishes.