NADA SESAR RAFFAY
New Paintings (2018-2019)
Over the course of her career, through numerous bodies of work, Nada Sesar Raffay has tackled themes that have included architectural forms, turbulent weather patterns and urban chaos through her deft painterly compositions.
In her current body of work, the artists’ integration of media such as pen and ink, acrylic and oil paint result in a frenzied, vibrancy where the cacophony of materials fuse to entice viewers to excavate the multi-layered surfaces. The combination of line drawing, swashes of liquid colour and matte, textual forms pull the eye through composite deposits of personal “hieroglyphics” that oscillate between the foreground and background.
In some of the artists’ paintings, Sesar-Raffay’s expressive process is as much about the content of the work as is the painted composition/intention. Her burrowing and scratching through the paint, the layering of linear dark lines and the build up of texture are all left on the canvas surface for the viewer to decipher. For instance in the Still Hot painting, the viewer might ask if the flower forms are wilting in the heat or are they resisting with all their might. Are the layered architectural forms disappearing/reappearing or simply existing in a daze of stillness fraught with a vulnerable impermanence? Her dense textural buildup seems to indicate that they will both persevere.
In her I Smell Summer painting, she continues the theme of intense heat where her discernable forms of trees and building structures are less “concrete” as they practically wither off the canvas surface in front of our eyes, emblazoned by a burning background sunset. Inadvertently, though her composition and use of materials, the artist reminds us that neither the artist nor the viewer is impervious to the looming stages of climate change.
Her In My Head painting, on the other hand, is painted in cooler tones that seem to reference a lightness of water and air that are contrasted to a foreground urban metropolis that is perhaps in the midst of receiving cooler night air. Once again her expressive use of materials and composition resonate with the sentiments of the artist as she beckons the night through a virtual orchestra of colour, form and texture that sing the joy of a productive days work and quite probably, relief from the heat of the day.
Nada Sesar Raffay
It matters not the cause of the storm – natural or man-made, the surface of the canvases have been annihilated/obliterated by the familiar abstract painting style of the artist. Influenced by Jackson Pollock’s frenzied techniques, Nada Sesar-
Raffay has been exhibiting her work throughout Toronto and Canada over the past twenty-five years. Through her numerous exhibitions, she has created her own language that treads a tenuous line between abstraction and representation.
In the 2015 Storm exhibition at Edward Day Gallery, within the larger canvases, the viewer is confronted by the apocalyptic shelling of the land and her defenseless forms. It is the precise moment when the raw path of an inner tornado has ignited with full force, spraying layer upon layer, to createa permanent turmoil, rendered through a dense wall of paint.The devastation of the larger canvases such as the 4’ x 4’ March Orange, invoke a world discharging with the force of a geyser. Paintings such as Storm, emit a wall of fury that appear to swallow hope. The all-to-kind familiar landforms have been drowned by the catastrophic struggle living within the canvas.
The series of smaller paintings rest within the eye of the squall. They provide a welcome reprieve from the intense bombardment of paint. The land breathes and collects its familiar forms before the next strike. The upper portion of the canvas blazes with a sky in recovery, while the landmass heaves a marred surrender.
As viewers we may ask of the cause of the fury. Has the anger been released from one nation to another or has the earth erupted from the continuous abuse battering her vulnerable natural force? Through Storm, Sesar - Raffay provides the viewer with an inner war of discontent, a landscape fraught with angst that
pleads for clemency.
Mr. Kelly McCray, 2015
Nada Sesar – Raffay
Edward Day Gallery
Upon an initial view of Sesar-Raffay’s most recent paintings from the Free Form
series, one is confronted with a mass of layered forms embedded in textures that
arise convincingly from the painter’s personal dialect: where fields of oscillating
symbols constructed from a playground of painted intuition and unplanned
immediacy pile atop one another. As her title suggests, the paintings are as
much about irregular shapes as they are about the liberty to construct one’s own
internal language through a passionate mark making process.
This new body of work is a departure from the fields of brazen colour palettes
she has employed in the past. Muted yellows and pale greens are the dominant
backdrop to the majority of canvases, allowing the internal dance of symbolic
gestures to take centre stage. Her latest obsessive shapes, marks and forms
resemble hieroglyphs from an ancient primitive language; yet concurrently
capture moments of our unavoidable contemporary modes of contact. Her
seemingly passive symbols reflect a hysteric technological wave of multiple
updates: the ever-shifting landscape of erratic tweet traffic, noises, utterances,
and ring tones that consume our spectrum of rapport.
The viewer is led to believe there is no rhyme or reason to the layered indentions
of symbols swimming through, what is first perceived to be, pacifying ponds of
refuge. For the most part, we are meant to feel safe in this arena of indeterminate
symbols and cellular camaraderie. Yet, beneath the passive blanket, the artists
determined use of colour remind the viewer that not all will conform to the mass
of multiple Babylonian hieroglyphs; nature is seething below the surface.
In many of the Free Form surfaces, an artificial mass of order arise from a
turbulent texture where layers of paint have been burrowed, beveled, scratched
and boldly emblazed into the canvas surface. The artist’s focused use of colour
in the series is more direct, implicit and immediate than some of her previous
series of paintings.
The intentional use of bold colour choice now has an immediate, discreet but raw
impact. For instance, in her Blue painting, brilliant pockets of iridescent
sapphire claw from beneath the pale surface of multiple-shaped forms, revealing
a powerful emotional energy which barely resides below a layer of civility; an
inevitable expression that will raise to its full force through tiny doses on the
playground of life.
In Sesar-Raffay’s Tango painting, a large swath of menstrual blood red disrupts,
interrupts and invariably surges onto the surface plane, symbolically slaying the
bull and challenging unsuspecting dancers as they navigate their way through
the once polite chaos. In Free Form, the artist’s implicit use of colour leads the
viewer through the crushing banality of Babel “speak”, rewarding our overloaded
sensibilities with the simple reality that underneath it all, we are all still very
Sesar-Raffay was born in Croatia and educated at the Academy of Fine Arts,
University of Zagreb. For the past 25 years she has been building a reputable
painting career in Toronto, Canada, combining her rich European life experience
with contemporary North American culture. Previous bodies of work have
included her Passion series, 2005 and her Swing series, 2007 and the Release
series, 2010. The past bodies of work have been exhibited at the Toronto-based
Edward Day Gallery. Her paintings have been included in a number of collections
including the Importaine Marketing Ltd.collection, the Croatian Embassy
collection in Ottawa and the Herjavec group collection..
Mr. Kelly McCray
Go to The Globe and Mail
Globe and Mail Update Published on Friday, Jun. 18.2010.
Nada Sesar-Raffay at Edward Day Gallery
Until July 11, 952 Queen St. W., Toronto;
When confronted with abstract painting, or painting that works within the abstract tradition,
I sometimes realize, painful as it is to admit, that, too often, there is too little new to say about abstract painting.
It’s been around since before I was born, it will outlive me, and most viewers are wholly immune to whatever radical impulses lurk within this now standardized practice.
Thankfully, there is always Nada Sesar-Raffay.
Her new suite of paintings at Edward Day Gallery, entitled Release, lives up to the titular promise – it’s certainly a release from the doldrums of “bank art” abstraction.
Packed with competing tensions and a chipper but still grounded cheeriness, these thick yet kinetic works dazzle and ensnare, catching the eye in every direction.
A flower garden tended by maniacs, Release is Sesar-Raffay’s most complete and cohesive exhibition to date.
Only a very thoughtful painter could run riot so concisely.
Conflating broad, clean swathes of flat trowel work with knife-tip scratches and swirling outlines,
Sesar-Raffay creates an upward dynamic in each work,
causing them to appear to spring off the bottom of the canvas and up, up into the air.
Her luscious blend of colours – creams with blood reds, citrus greens and fat, wine-purple burgundies – is both satisfying and never entirely safe;
periodically, the tones blend and overblend, forming a goo that borders on swampy.
How else to convey the growth metaphor inherent in each work?
Everything starts in dirt. And so, the floral forms that top off the paintings complete the narrative – from confusion and disarray, form is born.
What struck me most was that, despite all the flat versus gouged battles enacted on these canvases, there’s not a drip to be found, not a stray teardrop of paint.
Somehow, Sesar-Raffay maintains a sleek (although not fussy) tidiness, one that speaks against any notion that these works rely on the accidental.
Zesty and smart, Release re-engages traditional abstraction without resorting to academic fluffery or tiresome art-about-art distractions (painting’s latest crutch).
An added bonus: The works are so fresh, you can still smell the paint – that delicious scent, reminiscent of olive oil and bergamot – all the way to Queen Street. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/arts/rm-vaughan/a-wondrous-monstrous-hymn-to-hardwood/article1609446/
Nada Sesar Raffay ,"RELEASE",June3-June27.2010.
In her current body of work, Release, Sesar-Raffay provokes the viewer with a fresh line that treads the territory between impressionism and abstraction.
In her paintings Confluence and Celebration, complex mounds of paint pulse with life forms that pull the eye into a central sanctum, resting on treasures of the inner core.
Like a number of works in the Release exhibition, her 6’ x 8’ painting Release contains a paint laden ground that opens to the sky, traversing our gravitational pull and need to rise above it all.
Forms are often left undefined, like clouds, while others are outlined to distinguish one intuitive thought from the next.
There is a strong sense that the visual language Sesar-Raffay has developed over the years has culminated in the release of grids, patterns, forms of everyday life to breathe in the mystery of paint itself.
Sesar-Raffay ,originaly from Croatia,was educated at the Academy of Fine Arts, University of Zagreb, where she started her career.
For the past 22 years, she has been living in Toronto,Canada continuing her art practice , combining a rich European life experience with current North American culture.
Previous bodies of work include Passion, 2005, Architectural Feelings, 2006 and her 2007 Swing exhibition which integrated colours and memories of strong emotional experiences through turbulent, swirling gestures of force.
Her art is part of numerous collections in Canada and internationally.
Nada Sesar Raffay is represented by the Edward Day Gallery since 1997.
Kelly McCray,Curator,Co-Director/Edward Day Gallery ======================================
2007.About Swing series exhibition at the Edward Day Gallery:
Gary Michael Dault",The Globe and Mail,:
"The good part is that Nada Sesar-Raffay paints like an angel. The bad part is that she paints like an abstract-expressionist angel. Sesar-Raffay piles the colour on and swirls it madly about and, for some reason or other, it doesn't go all muddy and turgid, as might have happened in less capable hands, but remains so hot and fresh, it's almost fragrant.
A big painting like the incendiary Wild Kiss, for example, is 24 inches high and 96 inches wide, and it writhes toward you as if it were a heaving thing about to engulf you in its endless heat.".....
" Nada Sesar-Raffay’s large-scale canvases, through multiple layers of brilliant colour, exude a frenzy of dynamic fields.
Sesar-Raffay’s ordering of chaos treads a fine line between the melting of painted forms, juxtaposed with the construction of vibrating pressure.
She states that the canvases are “windows to an inner landscape which constantly fluctuate through cycles of process.”
Educated at the Academy of Fine Arts, University of Zagreb in Croatia, Sesar-Raffay has combined her Canadian and European background to create fierce new painting directions.
Her work is in many fine collections including the Croation Embassy in Ottawa. "
Apr. 6, 2006. 01:00 AM
VISUAL ARTS COLUMNIST, The Toronto Star
Architectural Feelings, by painter Nada Sesar-Raffay, is an array of aggressively formed, acrylic canvases on which a smouldering red is vigorously crosshatched with pale blue, white, and yellow. The compulsive, seeming reiteration of so many elements from canvas to canvas indicates an artist on a mission, although what it may be is not entirely clear.