Fringe Review: Paintings of Modernia

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By Vicki Hollamby


Sam Kissajukian’s exhibition, Paintings of Modernia, is showing in The Light Room and The Light Room Gallery at ILA in Light Square, away from the busyness of the east end  Fringe.

Sam has a long career as a stand up comedian and began painting in 2021, creating 300 paintings during a five month Bipolar manic episode. Since then, he has continued his journey as a visual artist and held solo exhibitions in Australia and overseas.

Reaching the top of the stairs (access friendly options also available), I was immediately impressed with the scale and colour of the work. Red, blue and yellow paintings on canvas, are punctuated with monochromatic works. The large open gallery holds the art well, each piece (or pair) having its own space. I was lucky to attend on a day when Sam was in the gallery and appreciated his generosity of time to give me some insight into his work.

He demonstrated through several pieces how moving from a warehouse environment to open spaces changed the nature of his work and how that gave insight into balms for his mental health. He explained that his conscious mind is very skewed and that his subconscious and nervous system hold a lot of truth about who he is. Newer pieces are working with this concept and exploring the idea of emotive language. He aims to project the language of an emotion; moving through it, creating shape, movement and space on the canvas. Not everyone will see the same thing in these abstract works but that is the beauty of them. The work has no definitive meaning  letting the viewer find their own.

My two favourites, Don’t look up and Liminal Wimmelbild, are worthy of a long look to explore the thousands of tiny images within. Sam explained that he first coloured the canvas, creating something to respond to. He then physically moved across and around the surface, the mini drawings repeating and transforming, to create two incredibly detailed works of art.

My arts education has taught me to read wall labels to learn more about the work but Sam has redefined the label and used his comedic background to create quirky stories, comments, observations, and riddles, that did not necessarily tell me anything about the work but instead invited more conversation – about the art and about life in general.

The wrap around screen in The Light Room is part of the exhibition so take some time to visit that adjacent room while you are there. For the kids (or kids at heart) Sam has hidden a mini painting in the room. See if you can find it! Paintings of Modernia is probably best seen in conjunction with Sam’s comedy show, Museum of Modernia that includes a guided tour of the exhibition, but if you can’t get to the show, is absolutely worthy of a visit.

5 stars

To find out more about this exhibition, go here.

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