Emmanuel Fremin Gallery is pleased to present Valkyrie Ink, an exhibition of new large-scale grisaille photographs by Reka Nyari. This suite of 13 works is part of an ongoing portraiture project which Nyari introduced in 2017 with her first solo at the gallery, Geisha Ink.
This new body of work continues to explore a central element of Nyari’s practice: intimate studies of self-identity and female empowerment through nude portraiture.
Among the many allegories we use to decipher life and relate to others, that of “having a thick skin” is one that resonates with most. It touches a visceral urge to fortify ourselves, to add a shield to our vulnerable body. Nyari’s series Valkyrie Ink portrays Eowyn, a young woman who endured a great deal of trauma since her childhood and who, in an act of rebellion irregardless of the soul’s desire for flight, from the age of 16 on adorned her body with an abundance of tattoos. Best understood as an audacious act of resistance, these did not only send a deliberate signal of strength to peers and predators, but reclaimed a body marked by the scars of self-inflicted cuts and a soul marked by abuse and mistreatment. The undulating lines, symbols, and words that cover her skin become an emblematic suit of armor.
Existing luminously in commanding poses, illuminated brightly against a dark backdrop, Eowyn is shown at times in ferocious movement and at times in tender stillness. The enigmatic scenes are embedded in imagery from Viking folklore, saturated with glimpses into her personal history. Nyari draws from the myth of the Valkyrie, Norse heroine goddesses who choose those who may die in battle and those who may live. The artist exaggerates this ethos through the use of costume and items faithful to actual Viking weapons and adornments; the works’ titles reference legendary female Viking warriors, goddesses, and Norse weaponries.
While Nyari explores the creation of a strengthened self-image through tattoos, the scenes which the artist invents often transcend into the realm of discomfort, of unease. Nyari constructs a storyline around her heroine, thus proposing that self-empowerment and reconciliation with one’s traumas is inextricably linked to the creation of a personal mythos — it is the act of creating one’s own skin, of inventing one’s own story.
The resulting photographs are nuanced portraits of a female warrior, telling a story of strength and transformation, and of the over-enduring female spirit. Nyari’s sensitive portrayal of Eowyn’s scars and adornment, both understood as physical manifestations of the heroine’s abuse and resilience, carry an inspiring combination of vulnerability and courage. Addressing the complex facets of body art, Nyari makes Eowyn’s tattoos understood as symbols of vigor and triumph.
These tattoos remind Eowyn to stay courageous and tough. They tell the story of her life and allow us to peer into her past and share her emotion and bravery. For example, the large Phoenix on her back shows her rebirth and her spirit that, instead of breaking, broke free.
Emmanuel Fremin Gallery
March 1 – April 15, 2018
547 W 27th St #510,