Reasoning with Nina Sumarac

“You can call me conceptual, but I’m more of a peaceful activist… I will always propagate love, unity or the search for solutions… how people can accept each other better…there is always that story behind my work,” reveals Nina Sumarac standing amid a breeze that soothingly makes its way through her studio in Limassol.

The thread that apparently ties all of her work together; an element of Sumarac’s own truth, prevails in all the series of works she has created throughout the years.

More recently, however, there seems to be more of a preoccupation with the public sphere as opposed to the personal one. Messages now have to do with our human complexity, our collective yet very unique identity as human beings, as portrayed in her current ‘All of Me’ series.

Her interactive installation entitled ‘Peace Mechanism’ plays with notions of the power of the advertisement along with the seductive power of smart easy-to-use modern kinds of machines that ultimately are powerful mind-controlling programmes.
Peace Mechanism not only interprets these powers but also achieves to find their positives and guide them these towards the goodness of mankind.

As an ever-growing artist, volatile with her media and very much grounded in the implications of the world we live in, Nina Sumarac leaves very little leeway for misinterpretation, yet an abundance for inspiration; a notion that perhaps derives from her own identity.

“I believe I’m Earthian; I’m not Serbian or Cypriot or whatever… I don’t want to be in any brand,” she tells me as she begins to tell me about her most recent work, which unavoidably takes me through other collections.

‘All of me’
“This exhibition basically tries to portray human complexity. We are built from so many things, our DNA is already so mixed…I think it’s important to acknowledge that we are so mixed,” reveals Nina.

Working on ‘All of me’ for the past one-and -half year, Nina initially uses Photoshop and creates these collage lookalike images, to portray the diversity of our species.

“(Through collage) I emphasise that complexity, I do not want to blend, I want to make it obvious how we are built,” explains Nina.
Working on large surfaces depicting portraits and backgrounds collaged together, “The reason why (each portrait) also has more hands also shows that it can be a builder, a fireman, a macho man… same for a woman..,” added Nina.

“I’m also giving them personal characteristics, sometimes faces will also have different emotion… you have different cultures, different characteristics that you inherited from your parents and your home, plus emotional state of mind…”

“The background is also built from imagery of different moments in history and from different cultural histories, this can also be a personal history.”

She adds: “This exhibition is all about the different masks you have as a person, plus the different cultural things that you have in the background… then, on a daily basis you are influenced constantly from different views and from different experiences; you are energy! How stupid it is to see the separation: I am Serbian or I am Belgian. You cannot put yourself in one word”.

As the artist clearly states: “No matter our origins, our DNA is constantly evolving due to environmental, cultural, political, economical, emotional and personal circumstances. There is no fixed human nature, like it or not; we are all cross-bred and our minds and actions reflect the realities of the global village. When we finally accept our fluid identity; when we realize the whole is vastly greater than the sum, our collective love, potential and dynamism can and will transform the conflicts of today into tomorrow’s Utopia.”

The first painting of this series was initially exhibited at the Lumière de Paix exhibition at the United Nations Palace in Geneva, while it is currently being exhibited at the Jan Kossen Contemporary Art Gallery in New York.

‘Uninterrupted Stare’
As Nina implies, every four to five years she changes and comes around with a different approach, a different concept, a different technique perhaps. “We change and we need to evolve; I explore,” she smiles.

“I’m a total anarchist; I don’t want any principles. The only principle I respect is the respect and appreciation towards another person, because I believe we are all amazingly unique creatures, we each have a reason why we’re here and this is fascinating; I’m fascinated with that and I’m fascinated with people,” Nina tells me as she reveals that her previous collection, Uninterrupted Stare, was inspired by this.

“In a classical portrait it’s enough to have eyes, you don’t need to have a perfectly painted body,” explains Nina.

“By accident, in one of my classes, and I was teaching blind drawing; that is when you are focused on watching models.

“You exercise vision and drawing … you don’t know what’s happening on your paper so you are helping your vision but you are also boosting your creativity because you cannot control it,” she adds. At the time, Nina removed the piece of paper she had been working on from the board and realised that the top of the head and eyes had stayed on the board.

“I was amused with that… and I thought it still had a character, it somehow appeared that I was free to watch more…. I realised that when you have eyes, you make a connection and that’s it, but when you don’t, you spend time watching the body, you identify more with the body, it’s more real, it’s a body scape in front you that you can jump in and become.

“It’s like a newly discovered theatrical stage,” says Nina.

From there, Nina produced 300 portraits from real people, over a period of five years.

Peace Mechanism
The interactive installation Nina is on the verge of materialising is part of her personal search for the solution to global violence and aggression.

“The inspiration for the sound installation and for the source of the entire concept came from Ho’o ponopono… The ancient Hawaiian practice of reconciliation and forgiveness. This works as a meditation mantra…. via the repetitive use of the words… I love you, I am sorry, please forgive me, thank you.”

The Hawaiian religious belief is that deep seeded memories, thoughts and fears based on false beliefs rise within us within our cellular data and resonate into the world around us, creating negative energy.

This can result in negative people, vandalism, global conflict, oppression, wars and tragedies. The Hawaiians also believe that we are 100% responsible for this and in order to break this cycle we need to forgive.

Negativity increases simply by being negative about a situation. The Mantra should help, they state, to erase the data, and will bring a person to the state of the pure blank perfection with which they came into this world.

However, the power of the advertisement and the seductive power of smart, easy-to-use modern kinds of machines are powerful mind-controlling programmes.

“In this consumer-focused world, I try to wrap the Ho’o ponopono message into the modern consumerist design and instead of esoteric teachings, which hold less appeal to people, I suggest a Cleansing Booth, which I bring to the streets, available to everyone – ready to be consumed for instant help or as an imposing bold advert which is difficult to avoid… it is an antivirus system that can be used beneficially; while paradoxically can also be translated for discussion, as it is another programme to control us,” explains the artist.

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About Melissa Hekkers

I am freelance journalist and author, who has frequently been featured in mainstream news outlets and other publications in Cyprus. Recently, I've been focusing on developing my writing, promoting my own books and teaching creative writing to children and adults. My most recent publication (2020) - Amir's Blue Elephant- pushes the boundaries of creative non-fiction, and recreates the moments that marked me the most, whilst volunteering in refugee camps in Lesvos, Greece, and during her ongoing involvement with the refugee community in Cyprus. In 2018 I published My Capre Greco Mandala which is the third in a series, an interactive colouring book about the biodiversity of the Cape Greco peninsula in Cyprus. My Akamas Mandala, the second in the series, is a colouring book inspired by the variety of endemic plants found on the Akamas Peninsula. In 2016, I published My Nicosia Mandala, the first of the above series, an innovative, interactive colouring book about the historic fortifications of the old town of Nicosia. I also focuses on silenced communities in Cyprus: I writes about migrants and refugees, both as a reporter and a features writer; I profile them and teach them creative writing skills. In 2007, soon after graduating with a Communications degree, I published my first children’s book in both English and Greek entitled Crocodile, which won the Cyprus State Illustration Award. In 2012, I launched my second children’s book Flying across Red Skies (in English and Greek), using an experimental approach to literature, for which I was nominated for the Cyprus State Literary award. My third, similarly well-received children’s book was Pupa (Greek and English), published in 2014. In between the last two books, I published my first free-verse poetry book entitled Come-forth. In 2019 she was contributing author to the anthology Nicosia Beyond Barriers: Voices from a Divided City, published by Saqi Books, London