Artist Profile: Sonya Genel


"Twilight of the Kali Yuga" -- Drawings by Sonya Genel now showing at Revolver Gallery

Q: Can you tell us about your show "Twilight of the Kali Yuga"? Where did the inspiration come from? And what is the story behind the title?

A: Twilight of the Kali Yuga is a showing of drawings about the chaotic jumble collage of being a human, with a body, in this world, at this time. We are living in an incredibly beautiful upsetting and complicated universe. So much information and emotion streams through us everyday. As an artist I naturally want to make images to tell stories, and to process the chaos. As for the title of the show... well, according to ancient Hindu texts, the Kali Yuga is the last of the 4 stages that the world goes through before collapsing in on itself so that the cycle may begin again. We apparently are living at the very end of the Kali Yuga, a time known as the "Dark Age" where humanity grows increasingly spiritually degenerate. Some believe that the Kali Yuga has in fact already ended and is now in a transition period called "the Twilight of the Kali Yuga". This is the age we are living in now. I don't know that I actually believe this, but what a perfect, beautiful, and poetic term!

Q: What is your artistic background?

A: I started drawing before I could talk. So i guess thats where it begins... I was lucky enough to have parents who recognized my artistic ability and have nurtured and supported me ever since. I grew up drawing and painting constantly from 1st to 12th grade, doing various artistic kid programs and such. Then I went to Boston University for my BFA in Studio Painting, where I focused on oil painting, printmaking, and minored in Art history. I also studied for a year at the San Francisco Art Institute. In addition to showing my paintings and drawings, I also enjoy painting murals and doing free-lance design work.

Q: You also paint among other mediums -- how did you choose the mediums used for this particular show?

A: In this show I chose the medium that has always come most naturally to me. Drawing with pencil and ink. Before my formal training at BU my work was always very illustrative and graphic. Art school trained me to be a very good painterly oil painter in the classic tradition, but something was lost.. In recent years I have started to return to this way of working. I have an infatuation with the human form, patterns, line, and the spaces between shapes and shaded forms. I guess I now have a combination of painterly and graphic sensibility.

Q: How do the pieces relate to one another?

A: I see all the pieces as stories, or snapshots of experience being related in a poetic way. They are all about being human. And a human must have a story, a favorite color, a bad knee, a fashion sense, a heart break, a fear, a sense of home or of homelessness, etc. Furthermore, humans are at the whim of our 5 senses, prone to delusions and projections. We often make the mistake of identifying our entire being with a name, a story, a body, a relationship, or a place. Sometimes, I am not even sure "where space ends and my body begins"...

Two major themes in this work are 1) the body as a vehicle for exploring the world, and 2) the sense of home and how we define it. In the psychic architecture that is The Twilight of the Kali Yuga, I explore the way bodies swell and contract, going from skin to house and back again. Throw a few memories and high-healed mementos in there, and the result is my strange ontological visual language.

Q: How much does your feminine energy affect your work?

A: Well, the work is based in my exploration and investigation of the experience of dwelling in a human body, and I am female, so it follows that the work be biased in at least some sense. But I have always loved feminine energy in general. I bow at the lotus feet of the feminine divine. Its not that I don't love men and all that is masculine, but there is something about the female form, and beautiful sensitivity associated with female energies, that I simply adore and I believe translates into a more engaging visual for me.

Q: You appear in a good amount of the pieces -- what is the reason/meaning behind this?

A: Honestly, I just love drawing the figure, and most of the time I am just the most readily available and affordable model. But like I said in the last question, the work is likely to be slightly biased because I can only speak from my own experience. Although, I do believe that the most universally accessible aspects of the human condition are related through very unique individual stories. The more detail and specificity the better. But I do not want people to think the work is auto-biographical, because its really not. I love whimsey, mystery, and fantasy, and I weave all these things into the mix.

Q: Anything else you want to add?

A: People often comment that my work is dark and disturbing. Its funny because I never see it as a dark place to be. When I am making the work I feel incredibly passionate and luminous on the inside. I love the beautiful grotesque. If anything I am trying to get people to slow down and see the infinite beauty in any given moment. But finding beauty in a situation otherwise considered ugly, common, or painful is what I truly enjoy. I don't believe that darkness in ones art necessarily reflects that person's inner state. I think film director David Lynch sums in up best in this excerpt from his short book on meditation and the creative process:

"It’s good for the artist to understand conflict and stress. Those things can give you ideas. But I guarantee you, if you have enough stress, you won’t be able to create. And if you have enough conflict, it will just get in the way of your creativity. You can understand conflict, but you don’t have to live in it. In stories, in the worlds that we can go into, there’s suffering, confusion, darkness, tension and anger. There are murders; there’s all kinds of stuff. But the artist doesn’t have to be suffering to show suffering. You can show it, show the human condition, show conflicts and contrasts, but you don’t have to go through that yourself. You are the orchestrator of it, but you’re not in it. Let your characters do the suffering."

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