Raimi Sani’s young women tread softly, in muted whispers of lace, feather-light touches and long tumbling hair. It is a comfortable kinship, one that is secure in embracing even the misunderstood. Here, reticence is not reluctance or indifference; instead, it belies a curious mind and a cautious, yet curious, navigation of the world.
White Knight, Raimi’s first solo exhibition in Selangor comes from a place of contemplative isolation, a quiet sanctuary where thoughts are collected, then shared.
This body of work plays with opposing imagery, its female figures in white lace a far cry from the quintessential knight in shining armour. Is there strength to be found in softness, in dreams of white?
“I chose the term ‘white knight’ for the sake of irony and making a point. Strength is genderless, ageless and timeless,” says Raimi, 25, whose 12 works in this show reflects her belief that strength is beyond the physical and observable, and can materialise in different forms.
“Strength is a feeling, a presence and a way of thinking, persevering, surviving and eventually succeeding. And innocence, femininity and softness do not necessarily equate to emotional weakness,” adds the fine arts (painting) Universti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) graduate.
Raimi, an introvert by nature, confides that she used to see this aspect of herself as something that held her back from making even the simplest decisions.
“How much of an introvert? From a scale of one to 10, I would say eight or nine. I would rather cuddle up with my cat quietly in my studio,” she shares.
She used to think of this as a weakness, but now realises that it is precisely this that makes her more observant and careful in interpreting and understanding her surroundings and the people around her.
“I tend to curate my social circle and I am very protective of the people I truly care about. Introversion is my way of sifting through life encounters, you take the good bits and discard the bad ones,” she explains.
But really, that’s inside looking out.
Raimi is all too aware that to the outside world, someone quietly contemplative is often dismissed as being an “emotional overthinker”. “It is quite frustrating sometimes, to be honest. Silence and shyness can be misinterpreted as gullibility and a lack of opinion or bravery. Everyone wants to be understood but not everybody is capable of understanding,” she muses.
Being an introvert is a life-changing experience, she says, particularly in such times when people are easily swayed by “alternative truths”.
“It empowers me to think and see things clearer, to help me navigate life with determination and sensibility. Part of the message I am trying to convey in my artworks today is to turn what people deem as flaws into something to be proud about,” she explains.
Raimi sees White Knight as a visual journey and an amalgamation of her thought process, life story and observations, concluded as paintings. “I believe everybody struggles with something at some point in their life. For me, each new project is an opportunity to document the lessons I have learned. This body of work is aimed at evoking thoughts from a fresh perspective, in the hopes that softness and demureness will not be seen as a weakness. It just so happens that some of these qualities overlap with my personality.”
The general theme in White Knight is one of optimism and hope, of overcoming all odds.
“To look for potential beyond the doubt,” she states, pondering on her own ability to find balance in life.
The artist chose white (in her art) as a representation of “personality and mentality”. “There are many shades that make up these white tones, we perceive things as white because it reflects all wavelengths of light,” says Raimi.
With her figures surrounded by somewhat cluttered backgrounds, Raimi points out that such intentional juxtaposition, and the body language of the characters, are meant to reflect the power of such values in overcoming the chaos in one’s life.
“You can go through difficulties and still defy bitterness. Be brave, be strong, stay positive. This is what I think is most evident in my work,” she says.
Well, they say still waters run deep. Raimi’s white knights are testament to that.
White Knight is on at G13 Gallery in Kelana Square, Kelana Jaya, Selangor till April 22. Closed on Sundays and public holidays. Visit www.g13gallery.com or call 03-7880 0991.