Prominence by Raimi Sani: A mother’s love poured onto canvas
By Danial bin Fuad

Prominence is another Project Room exhibition by G13 - Image courtesy of G13 Gallery

In 2017, as many as 810 women passed away per day from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth, according to the World Health Organization’s 2019 Maternal Mortality report. It’s never easy being a mother - those sleepless nights and stressful days keeping another being alive - and it’s a challenging but rewarding experience. Such is a mother’s love, that most mothers would not mind experiencing motherhood all over again.

Throughout history, children have fascinated their artist parents. French painter Berthe Morisot made around 150 paintings of her daughter, Julie. Elisabeth Louise Vigee Le Brun’s earliest self-portraits with her child invoked scandal in the way they were painted. At home, Malaysian artists show that same fascination with their children, as seen in Anissa Abdullah’s 2018 collage of her daughter Frozen” and Fadilah Karim’s self-portrait with her child, Terrible Two” (2020).

Prominence Interior Shot 1 - Image courtesy of G13 Gallery

In early 2020, Raimi Sani ventured into motherhood when her son was born. To share her experiences as a new mother, she produced six paintings of her son, which are exhibited at G13 under their Project Room program, titled Prominence.

Raimi’s style of work is unique, with her near-invisible brushstrokes invoking classical paintings. Her bold lighting contrast technique, or chiaroscuro, recalls a strong Rembrandt influence. This isn’t surprising as during her interview with Sarah NH Vogeler she stated “I think my style is best described as a combination of different artists who inspire me: Rembrandt, Johan Barrios and Nick Alm, to name a few.” Viewing her paintings, I feel nostalgic, especially this time around when she paints her own son.

Seeing Raimi’s son as her subject is refreshing, particularly coming from her. Her previous solo, White Knight in 2013, revolved around her introvertedness. The works from that solo were solemn, as most of them were of figures with deadpan expressions. In contrast, Prominence evokes feelings of happiness, love, security and comfort. They show Raimi’s deep love for her son and how being a mother changed her perspective on life.

Prominence Interior Shot 2 - Image courtesy of G13 Gallery

Throughout this exhibition, there are two recurring subjects: her son’s blanket and teddy bear. Both of these things represent early childhood very closely, as with most of us growing up would always have either a favourite blanket or plush toy - and sometimes even both! It can be interpreted that both items represent security and warmth for Raimi’s son.
Sunshine - Image courtesy of G13 Gallery

If I had to pick a favourite, it would be “Sunshine”. The painting is a top view of Raimi’s son on a bed, his hand held by what I believe to be her hand. It best shows the love she has for her son as it is the only painting with her in the frame. The veins of her hands show how hardworking a mother can be, and the multiple hats a mother has to wear The contrast between her veiny hands and the smooth hands of her son also creates an interesting look.

A mother’s love knows no bounds and Raimi’s body of work for this exhibition shows exactly that. A love for someone must be so boundless to be able to create six paintings of them. Her son is very lucky to have memories captured on canvas, as opposed to the majority of us that only have photographs - if we’re fortunate enough.

Prominence is a part of G13 Gallery’s Project Room, established in 2016. The gallery provides a platform for new faces or more established artists trying new methods to showcase their works. The exhibition runs until 20 March 2021 at G13 Gallery, Kelana Jaya.

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Danial Fuad is a participant of the CENDANA - ASWARA Arts Writing Mentorship Programme 2020-2021.

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