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Exhibition Catalog

Naomi Catalog
The Lyric Strain

Mention the word lyrical and you are bound to get impressions of something melodious and rhythmical, expressive of beauty and strong emotion, mellow and soulful and poetic. The word comes of course from the ancient Greek word, meaning “singing to the lyre” – that most unique and unusual instrument because of its purity of tone. In the 16th century, the word lyric was used to describe something personal and expressive, often using the personal pronoun “I” – remember Joyce Kilmer’s immortal lines: “I think that I shall never see / A poem as lovely as a tree.” In 1876, the word lyric was ascribed to the sung words, thus: lyrics; and the writer, lyricist.


Against that background, one feels justified, indeed pleasantly delighted, to ascribe the word to the current works of artist Naomi Banal. Now holding a solo online exhibition at the Renaissance Gallery titled “Endless Possibilities,” Banal mines the feeling and emotional overtones of abstraction, which are of course inexhaustible, gushing forth as if from a deep well of form and colour, in ceaseless unbounded overflowing.


Of course, we have always associated the artist’s name with flowers, for in fact she is a member of a group devoted to flower painting. (The artist’s nickname – “Honey” as she is fondly called by close friends, is endearing, coaxing as it does the image of a bee, that honey-producing insect, always hovering avidly around a flower.) Indeed, Banal’s floral works are immediately contrasted from her fellow floral painters, who paint directly from an image or a memory of some colourful botanical species. Not so Banal: she has instead scrupulously avoided a literal depiction, preferring to subscribe to the dictum of that French Symbolist poet named Stephan Mallarme, who advised artists: “Paint not the thing itself – but the effect it produces.”


…which is exactly what Banal has done, now that she has been relieved of a “subject” from physical reality. In her current abstract works, she deals with the ineffable emotion, soulful sensations that must be translated, captured, crystallized in form and colour. One could say that her subject is light  - an emanation of subtle radiance searching for its evocative shape, forms not to be found in the visible world, for they towards a quality of luminousness captured by colours – pinks, oranges, lemon yellows, blues, magentas – shifting musically in their weightlessness, thus elusive and always slipping away from the eyes’ grasp, the forms remaining fluid, ethereal, floating in a state of flux.


Thus her titles too are expressive of intense emotion, personal feelings expressed publicly, and yes, lyrical – Overflowing Joy! Pursuit of Passion! Sweet Enjoyment! One imagines the artist, in the act of creation, in touch with her heart, that will not be stilled. One wonders: are those lyrical drippings flowing ceaselessly down to be inferred as a spirit sheerly steeped in overflowing joy and happiness? Interpretation too comes with endless possibilities.

    But like music, like sweet sounds drifting from the strings of a Greek lyre, the abstract paintings of Naomi Banal are to be enjoyed simply for their quiet, unassuming presence, prevailing over us in their silence and contentment.


by Cid Reyes

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