Katya Muromtseva

Over the Slopes of Speech

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2024
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Over the Slopes of Speech, an exhibition of new paintings by New York-based artist Katya Muromtseva. This is the first solo exhibition of Muromtseva’s work in the UAE and will feature monumental watercolour triptychs that connect to the multifaceted narratives and histories of women immigrants.  

Muromtseva is known for her socially engaged practice and large-scale paintings, videos, and installations that refer to personal and collective memory. The origin of the new works lies in the discussions the artist had with immigrants, both in the USA and during a month-long visit to the UAE as part of the NIKA Project Space research and residency programme. While in the UAE, Muromtseva worked from a studio where she interviewed women who, for diverse reasons, had migrated to the Emirates. These profoundly personal stories form the basis for her watercolour compositions, which capture the resilience of these women and delve into themes of home, borders, refugees, and human destinies. 

The exhibition title, Over the Slopes of Speech comes from a line in the poem No More And No Less by Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish which tells the story of the importance of women and their refusal to accept the roles imposed on them by society. The verse serves as the conceptual anchor for Muromtseva's paintings, which foreground individuals who are often rendered invisible but are undeniably present in society.

Ambitious in scale for the medium of watercolour, through these works the artist explores the overlap between documented realities and artistic imagination, figuration and abstraction. Characterised by fluid figures and a vibrant palette with ochres, lime and emerald greens, lapis lazuli blues, and grid-like black lines, the imagery is emblematic of Muromtseva's use of watercolour to engage with history and society. She believes that through the personal, we can reflect the time we inhabit and, in doing so, establish connections with one another.

During her month-long residency Muromtseva met with women who had moved to the UAE from countries including Ukraine, Ghana, Nigeria, Pakistan and Russia. Muromtseva choose immigration as a subject - she became an immigrant herself at the outset of the Russia-Ukraine war - as a way of finding solace in shared experience. She says: “I start by asking the women: ‘when did you start feeling that your life is influenced by bigger historical events that you cannot control?’ History is usually written by politicians or historians influenced by politics, so I wanted to explore how history could be written by its actors instead – the people who have experienced it first-hand - and how their stories could be told in a different way.”

Additional works featured in the exhibition are triptychs derived from interviews Muromtseva conducted in the US with women who had immigrated from countries including Kazakhstan, Mexico, Egypt and Romania.

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