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September 12 – September 15, 2019 Istanbul, Turkey
Breaking taboos and venturing into unexplored territory, Rana Samara is a Palestinian artist born in Jerusalem who investigates the social contexts of sexuality within Palestinian society in her paintings. Following the success of her participation in Art Dubai 2017 and in Art Beirut 2017, Samara’s work debuts at Contemporary Istanbul 2019. The works exhibited by Zawyeh Gallery (BOOTH B203, 12 – 15 September 2019) expose what appears to be typical domestic scenes, but on closer inspection small details become large clues – lingerie peeks out from beneath rumpled sheets, belts hang from the bedstead, a half-used pack of Viagra linger – telling signs, which provide a narrative for the foregone ‘crime’ or proscribed act.
Intimate spaces are translated into large-scale canvases, and continuous frank conversations with women become the backbone of her work, thus transcending the private sphere into the realm of the public. In Samara’s words: “Intimate stories and female wisdom through experience are the sources of inspiration for me and for my practice.” She continues: “That said, perhaps my own experiences are a latent inspiration too.”
This inspiration for this particular subject began after a walk in Al-Amari refugee camp in Ramallah, which she recalls as such: “I began wondering about the sex life of couples living in such condensed spaces that affords them almost no privacy. This privacy is especially difficult to achieve considering the large size of most Palestinian families and the cramped proximity in which neighbors and families live to each other.
These bedrooms are familiar domestic spaces, but in these paintings, they are transformed into the repository of social neurosis and taboos that Samara seeks to scrutinize and demystify. Virginity, intimacy, sexual desire, gender, social norms –subjects, which are so pertinent in both the female realm and the society at large but they are often hidden, unexplored or even dismissed at an artistic level in the context of a nation still struggling under years of military occupation.
Samara grew up in a typical Palestinian family. In her words: “I spent most of my childhood and teenage years observing and analyzing social and gender relations. I came to understand how precious, yet also suffocating women’s roles as carers and nurturers can be.”
She investigates the social contexts of sexuality in which she draws inspiration predominantly from personal encounters with women she meets: “I have intimate and continuous conversations with them about virginity, intimacy, sexual desire, gender norms, their convictions and relationships and roles vis à vis the younger generations and these conversations form the cornerstone of my research.” Samara’s works span across diverse mediums such as film, video, installation, and embroidery, but her current focus is large-scale paintings. Samara graduated in 2015 from the International Academy of Art in Ramallah.