Elza Kayal Gallery invites you to

Our Realms

June 1 to July 15

Opening Reception: Thursday, June 1, 5-8pm
368 Broadway, Suite 409, New York, NY


3D gallery walk-through

Jenna Arvelo - Helia Chitsazan - Lauren Cline
Arnela Mahmutović - Tianshu Zhang

Elza Kayal Gallery is pleased to announce the opening of Our Realms, a group exhibition of five young painters. These works were conceived and created during the years of the pandemic.

Walking through the studios of the artists, many questions came to mind, in terms of the sources of inspiration. Are these works the natural reflections of living through turbulent and isolating times? The artists’ antidote to anxiety?

A dreamlike contemplation of life events runs through the works, a thread of collective and individual symbolism, and a cultural self-reflection, as the world slowed down for many.

Turning to the inner world is a long standing theme, but this is greatly intensified by the existential and political uncertainties of recent years. Isolation, distance, nomadic family experience, separation by political unrest have all made their way into these paintings that at once challenge and celebrate the self and our realms.

An internal process takes place on the canvases, footprints of adapting to this changing world through the classical materials of paint applied with meticulous precision and focus. The artists’ limited palettes often give an ambiguous and faded tenor in their works. Most of these narratives take shelter in indoor spaces or somewhere in a spiritual ancestral realm.

Jenna Arvelo’s practice concerns itself with what connects her to forgotten pasts, current events and a rapidly unfolding future. Building from the archive of scattered stories from her ancestors, she creates small to large scale paintings, activating symbols from her Haitian and African American spiritual heritage; bridging a symbolic language amongst her diaspora. Rising from an acute need to understand who she is (as a being outside of what American society has taught her to believe of herself and her culture), she paints self portraits to be the encapsulating vessel that explores this innate multiplicity of selfhood, whilst also allowing her to return to her ancestral ways of connecting with the divine and spirit.

Helia Chitsazan’s current series of paintings convey the notion of memories, identity, absence, and ephemerality. They reflect on significant moments spent with her friends and family back in her home in Tehran, Iran, as those people, places, and moments are now inaccessible. She recreates those moments of affection and intimacy. The narratives usually take place in indoor spaces reminiscent of ‘home.’ Home is where the secret double lives of Iranians occur - drinking, dancing, smoking, and holding hands, despite these being illegal in public. These moments are profoundly honest, emotional, and sincere demonstrations of her community.

Lauren Cline is an American figurative painter whose work explores the realm of the home, the bedroom, and other domestic spaces. She uses a process-based approach to create her compositions that is derived from Jungian psychoanalysis. Her work can be found in private collections in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Zurich. She lives in New York City where she is currently pursuing an MFA from Hunter College.

Arnela Mahmutović is a visual artist who lives and works in Albany, New York. Born in Hamburg, Germany, and a child of parents from former Yugoslavia, Arnela’s paintings explore the intersections of her traditional upbringing within Western society. A vocabulary of narrative, history and displacement found in diasporic experience is at the root of her visual language. Drawing inspiration from illuminated manuscripts, contemporary imagery and personal stories, Arnela’s work is a continued investigation of the histories that surround her. Each piece describes where different influences overlap or combine with her Balkan heritage, resulting in an intimate and shifting relationship between displaced bodies and invented spaces; constructed worlds in which each lives as agents of their own narrative.

Tianshu Zhang works draw from her own experience of the world. A sense of distance and mystery plays an important role in all her works. Her nomadic childhood and family experiences have made her sensitive to emotions and often lament the fleeting beauty of life. She always thinks about how the environment affects us individually and how each of us responds to the ephemeralness of our surroundings. The figures in her paintings often take on ambiguous forms and sometimes become incomplete, fusing or fading into the background.