Words: Elyse Goldfinch
Photography: Jacquie Manning
Sofiyah Ruqayah’s work is rooted in human nature and its entanglements, particularly with the natural world. Working across sculpture, installation, drawing and collage, she weaves together forms that are recognised as both human and nonhuman, imagined and real. Elements from nature are intertwined with the human body – hybridised together in a reciprocal connection that reinforces their coexistence.
While her earlier watercolour works on paper depict eel and human skins tangled in evocative, sometimes grotesque gestures, recently Ruqayah moved to more sculptural and material practice. Here she transforms often utilitarian objects into something mythical or allegorical – storm glasses historically used to predict weather patterns become the hazy state between consciousness and dreams, and fishing hooks a choice between the safety of isolation or the risk of intimacy. Ruqayah leans into the strangeness of these materials, amplifying their ambiguous relationships with one another.
In 2020 the artist held her first solo presentation as part of Holding Patterns, a series of exhibitions by Sydney-based artists at the 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art. Curated by Reina Takeuchi, the exhibition featured sculptures of amorphous faux fur bodies that appear to have grown from the gallery floor, alongside a text pinned to the wall that dryly reads I suspect I shall die disappointed.
Currently undertaking a residency at Parramatta Artists Studios (PAS), Ruqayah was curated into the 2020 PAS exhibition at the Artspace Sydney Ideas Platform titled How to measure the body against the earth, alongside Liam Benson and Cindy Yuen- Zhe Chen. She is also a member of Woven Kolektif, a collective of seven artists with familial ties to Indonesia who collaborate on exhibition and community-based projects. Ruqayah shows maturity and a deep sensitivity for material practice well beyond her years. She has an exciting trajectory in the year ahead, starting with a Firstdraft solo.
This article was originally published in Art Collector issue 95, JAN – MAR 2021.