Interview: Sara Naim


Working with sculpture, photography and installation, Syrian artist Sara Naim creates objects and images that explore boundaries and borders in different socio-political contexts. In her latest exhibition, Naim is showing three-dimensional collages from her Scene Series, which depict nature and scenic views in an idealised form. These images both create and undermine our collectively romanticised view of certain locations, experiences or environments, such as sunsets and beaches.


Your exhibition at VOLT features works from the Scene series. How did this series develop?


I did an online philosophy course during lockdown and it was Plato’s Theory of Forms that stimulated the series. He believed that everything that exists has an ideal, perfect Form living outside of our spatio-temporal existence, and which is only accessed through the mind. Rose Tinted expands on that concept of the ideal verses the real, and recreates those perfect Forms which we often use as a backdrop to understand our actual experiences.


You studied photography – how does photography continue to inform your practice?

It’s really the crux of my practice. I may not always incorporate photography, but it always informs my work. It enables me to talk about the construction of an image and the way that we see, while also playing with notions of perception (which is embedded with photography’s relationship to truth).


Your companion exhibition Rose Tinted is currently showing at The Third Line, Dubai. Does living between London and Dubai influence your work?

Not that I can discern.  I consciously limit being influenced by immediate things, and I think time and place are included in that. Of course seeing and experiencing influences ones practice, but I don’t directly bring that into the conversation.


Do you think your cultural heritage informs your work?


I’m Syrian, born in London but grew up in Dubai. It that third culture kid that enables me to feel free of place which informs my work more than being Syrian, or from Dubai, or London. Being too sentimental to place creates ‘the other’. My work is always talking about that illusion of boundary and although its often discussed on micro terms, its very much referring to that illusion of boundary we create around ourselves and our own identities. 


There is a highly sculptural quality to this series, and the works are technically precise, could you talk about the process of making them?

I start by drawing a landscape which stereotypes a utopic scene, and I convert it into an illustrator drawing. I laser cut that in both plexiglass and wood. I used my own archival images or images made for this series to place inside the various shapes. I make many combinations of images until I find it creates a landscape that best defines that tension between the ideal and the real. Then I bind the three elements together with many, many, many screws!


I understand these are the last works made in this way. Why is that?

Due to sustainability reasons in respect to the materials the works require. I’ve been using plexiglass and wood for a long time now and I want to look forward to working with new materials that are more conscious to the environment. 

It’s also a very slick material that doesn’t lend itself well to small marks and scratches, and I think it will be liberating to not be so fussy with things that don’t matter to me.


What are you working on at the moment?

I’m working on the birth of my son, and raising him! For a few months that will be my priority, and then pivoting my materials and way of working will be the next. I was shortlisted for the Taoyuan International Art Award which involves a prized exhibition in March at the Taoyuan Museum of Fine Arts, Taiwan.


Visit Sara Naim’s exhibition Rose Tinted at VOLT between June 25th and August 14th