Katya Muromtseva: Over The Slopes Of Speech

Katya Muromtseva: Over The Slopes Of Speech

NIKA Project Space

March 29, 2024
Katya Muromtseva
Over The Slopes Of Speech
March 1–May 4, 2024
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Over the Slopes of Speech, an exhibition of new paintings by New York-based artist Katya Muromtseva. This is the first solo exhibition of Muromtseva’s work in the UAE and will feature monumental watercolour triptychs that connect to the multifaceted narratives and histories of women immigrants.

In her artistic practice, Muromtseva grapples with the question of how to navigate political artistry under authoritarian regimes without resorting to direct aggression. Instead, she employs social empathy expressed through painterly and sculptural forms. Her primary focus lies in large-scale paintings, videos, and shadow installations, all rooted in historical contradictions. Interviews with representatives of various social groups serve as the starting point for most of her works

The origin of the new works lies in the discussions the artist had with immigrants, both in the USA and the UAE. These profoundly personal stories form the basis for her watercolour compositions, which capture the resilience of these women and delve into themes of home, borders, refugees, and human destinies.

The exhibition title, Over the Slopes of Speech comes from a line in the poem No More And No Less by Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish which tells the story of the importance of women and their refusal to accept the roles imposed on them by society. The verse serves as the conceptual anchor for Muromtseva’s paintings, which foreground individuals who are often rendered invisible but are undeniably present in society. Ambitious in scale for the medium of watercolour, through these works the artist explores the overlap between documented realities and artistic imagination, figuration and abstraction. Characterized by fluid figures and a vibrant palette with ochres, lime and emerald greens, lapis lazuli blues, and grid-like black lines, the imagery is emblematic of Muromtseva’s use of watercolour to engage with history and society. She believes that through the personal, we can reflect the time we inhabit and, in doing so, establish connections with one another. Muromtseva met with women who had moved to the UAE from countries including Ukraine, Ghana, Nigeria, Pakistan and Russia. Additional works featured in the exhibition are triptychs derived from interviews Muromtseva conducted in the US with women who had immigrated from countries including Kazakhstan, Mexico, Egypt and Romania.

The artist chose immigration as a subject—she became an immigrant herself at the outset of the Russia-Ukraine war—as a way of finding solace in shared experience. She says: “I start by asking the women: ‘When did you start feeling that your life is influenced by bigger historical events that you cannot control?’ History is usually written by politicians or historians influenced by politics, so I wanted to explore how history could be written by its actors instead—the people who have experienced it first-hand—and how their stories could be told in a different way.”

From this question, the artist began and asked each participant of her project Shadow Conversations, for which the artist invited participants to a portrait session lasting from 30 minutes to an hour, where she painted a watercolor portrait of the visitor’s shadow. The second part of the exhibition, Over The Slopes of Speech, showcases works from this series, created in the UAE. In this way, each response placed their lives within a broader narrative.

As one of the project’s heroines said: “There is this continuous dance between places where your body is and where your mind is not, and vice versa. The shortcomings of places where we are physically present become more visible because these places are real. They surround you, enveloping you. The greener-grass of alien places, places where your body is not yet present, is always attractive, more an illusion than a reality though”.

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NIKA Project Space
March 29, 2024

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