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Syrian Artist Sara Naim Doesn’t Believe in Borders

The 30-year-old uses abstract photography to question life

30-year-old British-Syrian artist Sara Naim realised she wanted to be an artist at a very young age. So when she graduated high school, she decided to study photography at the London College of Communications.

But since finishing college, Naim’s practice has gone well beyond the realm of classical photography. Using high-tech tools, Naim creates mesmerizing micro images by sampling cells from her fingertips, which allow her to explore more abstract and existential topics.

Naim uses her psychedelic, technicolor photo-sculptures to question the meaning and legitimacy of boundaries and perception.

With two exhibitions running currently, with one at Breda Photo and one at LVH Art in London, we caught up with Naim to find out whether identity means anything to her and why borders don’t really exist.

You’re a  Syrian who has grown up in Dubai, lived in London, and now work in Paris. Have you ever felt confused about your identity?
Never, but I think others have. Through the reaction I receive after saying I am Syrian, I can tell people often don’t legitimize me as being Syrian without being born or living there. Identity is a feeling, I’m not sure if that can really be questioned. My blood is Syrian and I connect with the land.

Why do you use technology in your artistic practice?
Scientific apparatus is what I use in order to explore the concepts that I’m interested in. The scanning electron microscope in particular has become my main medium, alongside accidental and provoked digital glitches, which occur during its use. These interferences describe my interest in examination and distance. A glitch distances the viewer through its abstraction, but also unearths the inherent structure of a digital file’s expectation and miscommunication. The push and pull between the micro and macro is just as dynamic; as my images bring you closer to the subject, you loose perspective.

Borders are a key concept in your work. Why do they resonate with you so much?
Because they don’t exist in the way that we’ve evolved, or been taught to understand them. On a cellular scale all space is merged, with matter just varying in densities. Borders have been an interesting concept to explore and describe, because of how loaded it is of a term. Visualizing it as elusive and transferable, aims to unpack its political, social, emotional and physical construct. On a macro scale, it’s how nations are created, and how nationals are separated.

What other themes are fundamental to your work?
I’m really interested in Plato’s ‘Theory Of Forms’ at the moment. He said that nonphysical forms or ideas are the most accurate form of reality. The material world is changeable and therefore unreliable, and behind this unreliable world of appearances is a world of permanence and reliability. He believed that if we conceive a form in our mind, it must exist as a perfect, abstract state, which can never be perfectly represented. I love that.

What have you got coming up next?
Next month, I’m part of a group show called Experiment|Control at Blyth Gallery, Imperial College, and Tribe: Contemporary Photography from the Arab World, at Katzen Art Center in Washington D.C.

But my baby is The Exoticism of Foreign Speech, my upcoming solo show with The Third Line Dubai, opening 16 January.

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