Searching for Stars: Soumya Netrabile @ pt.2 Gallery, Oakland

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pt.2 Gallery, Oakland // November 12, 2022 – December 16, 2022

Soumya told me that last year in the stretch of woods she walks in along the Des Plaines River there was an unusual profusion of yellow flowers. Like others who walked that trail regularly she had never seen these flowers before, and certainly not in such a covering quantity. Eventually Soumya ran into a ranger who told her that because of severe flooding a few months prior, seedlings that had been buried deep within the mud—maybe for centuries—had floated to the surface and bloomed. Becoming intimate with a place is to be both completely rooted in time and space and to simultaneously watch these categories fall into each other, loop backwards, bring in the past, reach out to the future as one becomes integrated into the cyclical universe.

The botanical abstractions which make up Searching for Stars come out of a mindfulness practice—Soumya’s daily practice of going to the woods—walking, sitting, inspecting the underbrush, looking, being alongside.  What emerges are visual description of plant entanglements that are simultaneously a transcription of phenomenological sensation.  As Soumya walks through the forest, her eyes move through the space.  By letting her vision wander and her mind go soft, plant matter, spaces between trees, the movement of the light in between leaves, become not separate specimens but universes in full symbiosis and interaction.  Linearity begins to lose its hold.  Hard to describe verbally perhaps, but paintable. In the return to the studio, translation into paintings keeps Soumya’s vision travelling, creating canvasses from the movement through space that inspired them.  As viewers, we in turn are given this absorbed vision.  The colors Soumya uses are layered to create further movement, almost a kind of vibration.  While some might say this causes disorientation, I might instead call it visual pre-digestion.  The subject matter of these works is a dialogue between painting and the immediacy of experience.  

When you let your brain relax and look at the way sunlight comes through the leaves, it is not dissimilar to how it feels looking at a very clear night sky.  The plants in one’s nearest park can feel extraordinarily quotidian if you don’t take the time to look at them.  But Soumya’s paintings suggest that if you slow down, soften your vision, that maybe one can locate—or enter— the unbound cosmos.  The paintings in Searching for Stars represent the dissolution of space and time that can happen when one is totally immersed in a contained microcosm.  —Martha Tuttle

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