The liminal spaces between one moment and the next has always fascinated artist Lara Sophie Benjamin and her upcoming exhibition offers a glimpse into exactly that.
Liminal Spaces: Through a half-open door, behind the twitch of a curtain, we catch a glimpse of a stranger’s story. Out here in the dark, we wonder at the lives within. And then we move on, forgetting we’ve just seen through a gateway into another world. But for Lara Sophie Benjamin, these moments are recalled. And in time, they’re immortalised: transformed into captivating works of art.
Lara has built a career on capturing these ambered instants: the fleeting moments spied through doorways and windows, the entrances and exits to another existence. She refers to her passion as ‘the liminal’ – the spaces on both sides of a threshold; places that hint at secret lives and stories. Here, she has captured an open door; within its indigo confines, a woman sits patiently beside a bed, waiting, waiting. There, on another canvas, we see a slice of a winding staircase; its crimson shadows hint at a figure around the corner.
“I always seem to come back to the subject matter of thresholds,” says Lara, whose second solo exhibition will open at Nicosia’s Apocalypse Gallery on Wednesday. “I find a significant resonance in ordinary sights and spaces: in the changes in light, colour, and texture; in our subjective interpretations when we look from the outside in. These transitional places, where time and action are suspended, where both the outside and inside are present – they call to me. They trigger the sense of the aesthetic, they hint at untold narratives, and they inspire…”
Lara, who is a graduate of both the Camberwell College of Art and the Cyprus College of Art, and holds an MA in Art Practice from the University of East Anglia, has long been moved by such marginal moments. “Some artists paint landscapes, others prefer still-lives,” she muses. “But for me, it’s interiors that hold the magic. These transitional moments are, I find, very representative of the human condition – a symbol of everyday life, of our existence in spaces we have created for ourselves. Wherever I go, I’m snapping photos through doorways and windows, catching the instances of time that later trigger an experimentation in paint.”
In her studio, Lara has created a liminal space of her own: a refuge within a retreat that’s entirely concealed from the outside world. Located within an old house in Strovolos (in which a collective of artists each work in separate rooms), her studio lies across the stone-flagged floors, beyond a concealed courtyard, and up a hidden staircase. Below the threshold lie silvered olive trees; above, the sky hangs heavy in the winter cold. But within, through a crack in the door, there is the warmth of a transitional world: a meeting of moments and magic…
Inside, the studio is a cradle of inspiration. Photos paper one wall from floor to ceiling: a collage of emotive moments. Against the plaster, ongoing works are stacked ten deep in a riot of colour and canvas. And, beside a well-worn easel, paintbrushes and tubes lie scattered, telling their own creative story.
“I always have at least 30 brushes on the go at any one time,” says Lara. “And all have a different purpose, a different touch. Every mark on the canvas – be it made with brush, knife, or by pouring paint – is an exploration, an experimentation. And every hue I mix becomes an investigation: the tubes themselves I consider mere pigment, but mix them together and you create shades of incredible depth and variation.”
From such diverse connections and interactions with her materials – “always oil on canvas, I consider myself a purist” – Lara fashions her artwork, depending on intuition to find a balance in her creations. She works in short bursts, moving from canvas to canvas, keeping her response fresh with constant experimentation…
“That need to experiment with paint and push the painting process has been important throughout my projects. It’s a constant adventure: what you can do and how you can express with paint, how you apply it, colour, layer it – it’s an infinite possibility curve. For me personally,” Lara adds, “everything happens organically, evolving out of former endeavours.”
Lara’s first major exhibition was named ‘Reverberations’. And three years on, we’re getting ‘Hindsight’ – the upcoming showcase, which will feature approximately 20 works of oil on canvas. Most are large, in the range of 100 by 120 centimetres. But all depict the minuscule moments of liminal existence that fascinate both viewer and artist…
“Over time, I’ve become freer in my expression and interpretations,” she explains. “And that has led me to work on a larger scale. But at the same time, I feel the way I treat these spaces has changed according to my own, personal journey: there’s more abstraction now, a finer balance between control and loss of control, between unconscious and cerebral decisions.
“Nevertheless,” she concludes, “my original inspiration remains the same: no matter the size of canvas or degree of interpretation, it’s the liminal spaces of this world that continue to inspire. I have tried,” she admits, “to move away from this idea: for a while I experimented with more concrete subjects and pieces. But there’s something that always draws me back to the liminal, to the idea of suspension of time and place and the concepts of inside and outside. To the gateways into other worlds…”