1619 FLUX: Art + Activism Presents
Vian Sora’s Displaced Narratives

Review by Kaylyn Taylor

Entire contents copyright © 2016 Kaylyn Taylor. All rights reserved.


City Face, acrylic on canvas, 48″ x 38″, 2015

There is an unexpected delicacy to Vian Sora’s exhibit Displaced Narratives (1619 Flux:Art + Activism). The Iraqi-born artist approaches the difficult subject of displacement with a thoughtfulness that makes her art accessible. There is also timelessness to this collection; found in the use of ancient Mesopotamian technique of engraving the canvas, the reference to ancient iconography, the use of gold thus referencing byzantine art, the more modern floating and abstracted figures and compositions, and the contemporary color pallet, which are combined beautifully to create a transcendent visual experience.

Upon entering the gallery, the first piece encountered is entitled Apocalypse. It is a multimedia piece that combines a canvas with an object. The canvas depicts a body of water with three boats on the horizon; on the left of the canvas is a blaze of reds, representing destruction. On the right is a shoreline filled with figures that are human, animal and angelic. Placed directly in front of the canvas, on the floor of the gallery, at an angle is a boat large enough to seat four adults. The boat is painted in the fiery hues of the blaze found in the canvas, and there are large holes in the bottom of the boat, begging the question of whether or not the passengers survive. In the gallery, to the left of the centerpiece is a series of figurative works, and to its right is a series of abstracted works. The disparate canvases are united by jewel tones, flattened space, and an under layer of colorful visual texture. If the viewer ‘reads’ from the exhibit left to right it suggests a journey from the external to the internal.


City Face, acrylic on canvas, 45″ x 38″, 2016

The compositions towards the left are informative, offering distinct images upon which to draw interpretation. The canvas City Face depicts the aftermath of a car bombing. Figures are intertwined with one another and the canvas is filled with streaking colors alluding to blood and tears. Slightly off center to the right is an arcing figure with a solid field of light blue below: a calm in the chaos.

Directly to the right of this canvas is a piece entitled Hope, Distance. The figures reference the Minoan Snake Goddess, another example of timelessness. These people and animals could be refugees of ancient or modern warfare, and their hope in the future applies to either scenario. Also lending to this timeless quality are the engravings found in the field of blue; they are whispers, suggestions of tradition, and of the stability inherent therein.

The center point, Apocalypse, is composed of both abstraction and figural representation. It is after Apocalypse, on the right side of the gallery, that the inner contemplative and more abstracted pieces are exhibited. In these pieces, the artist pulls order out of the chaotic under painting. The viewer is informed of the inner workings of the survivor. Order is coaxed out of the disarray with bright colors, again, offering hope.

In the piece Maze, rather than representing the traditional linear concept of a maze, the maze of being displaced is represented. The figures in the bottom of the canvas are small, overwhelmed by the areas around them. Colors are layered yet remain bright and accessible. A figure forms in the upper right of the canvas, an extension of the fields of color, seemingly contemplative in its seated, curled position, suggesting that there is a maze of the unknown ahead.

Inward Landscapes is a visceral piece. The under painting is in rich reds and yellow, warm colors that also relate to blood. Drawn out of this under coat are biomorphic forms painted in a calming, monochromatic blue. The overlay of the curved lines suggests a sculpting of order out of the chaos of displacement. Is not rigidly applied, rather it grows out of the under workings.

Uniting the iconographic pieces with the abstracted pieces is the rich, bright color palette. There is a full range of colors used, from antique gold to cobalt blues, deep reds, black and grays to neon yellow. The subject of displacement could lend itself easily to dark, bleak interpretation, yet Ms. Sora chooses to allow the light in, and keep clarity in her compositions. There is a hope and a comfort in this lightness. The figures are often outlined in light or bright colors, giving them a luminescence and a feeling of transience.

Another unifying element is the attention to detail. In the figurative pieces, the etchings, which are incorporated, are sublime. They are often curvilinear, patterned and organic. They add an almost invisible layer of meaning to the compositions. It is only upon looking at the work for an extended period that you might notice figures centrally located in a piece, delicately carved into the composition, as in Ancestral. You may find in the abstracted pieces a beautiful swirl of color framed by a human form, or equine shapes pulled out of a muddle of neutrals, defined by a soft blue field as in Untitled.


Ancestral, mixed media on canvas, 58″ x 40″, 2015

Ms. Sora has created thoughtful, beautiful works. They serve as a point of departure for deeper contemplation regarding the experience of displacement.1619 Flux: Art + Activism serves as an appropriate venue for such contemplation, giving the displaced a home.

1619 FLUX: Art + Activism Presents
Vian Sora’s Displaced Narratives

October 7 – December 2, 2016

Tuesday – Saturday

11am – 4pm
Or By Appointment

1619 FLUX: Art + Activism
1619 West Main Street
Louisville, KY 40203


KaylynKaylyn Taylor is an artist and writer living in Louisville with her husband and two children. She holds a BA in English & Humanities with a minor in Art from the University of Louisville. She was formerly the General Manager for Savage Rose Classical Theatre Company.