Sonya Radan

Sonya was born in Sarajevo, in former Yugoslavia, where she studied and graduated from the University of Fine Art. It is now hard to believe, but the outbreak of war in the early 1990s took her and her little family completely by surprise. They were on holiday on a small Greek island and an exhibition of her work had just opened in one of the most prestigious galleries in Sarajevo, but the situation at her home quickly became so dreadful that she never went back.

That year, 1992, Sonya lost her country, along with scores of her paintings and the prospect of a career as an artist and an art teacher in her home country. Sonya`s husband, daughter and her were still alive and together.

The first few years in the UK were extremely tough. Sonya worried about her family, particularly her parents, and friends, Sonya spoke very little English, she had nowhere to paint and, soon after her arrival, her husband and Sonja separated, and she started to raise her daughter alone. As always, her paintings reflected her inner state and her early London paintings are dense and heavy, almost morose. In sharp contrast, today Sonya paints in vivid colours, the reds and purples and oranges reflecting perfectly who she now. Looking at the few paintings she has from that earlier period, it seems clear that, when Sonja was painting them, she was looking backwards to a life she had lost, unable to envisage a productive, happy future for herself where he now is. Sonja has developed as a person and an artist, and has gone through many changes, but there is a continuous thread through her work: Sonja is a figurative artist and she paints women. In contemplating women through the generations, Sonja strives to reveal and affirm female identity through different phases of life. Sonya´s approach to painting is always changing, like her life, and she always strives to discover new ways to express herself. Sometimes inspiration comes from the women at her local sports centre, sometimes from pieces of scrap wood she finds in a skip on a nearby street, sometimes from my memories. For a time, Sonya was intrigued by glassware and poured her energies into finding and perfecting a technique that allowed her to transfer her work onto glass. Sonya still creates glassware that, although hand-painted, is still suitable for everyday use. Sonya loved the idea of art permeating the everyday, of art as a way of life rather than a way to decorate life.

At this moment in time Sonya is focusing on painting on wooden blocks. Sonya enjoys using materials that have had a previous life - as bits of old houses, remnants of railway tracks, wedges and lumps of driftwood – and this has resulted in freer, more dynamic paintings that can be presented as sculpture. Painting on four-sided blocks enables her to tell a complex story in full, like a tetraptych can, in a single piece.

Despite the turmoil of her early years as an artist Sonya continue painting and exhibiting in the UK and in galleries and museums across former Yugoslavia: Belgrade, Dubrovnik, Sarajevo, Split and Zagreb, for example.

Sonya also created an illustrated book, “The Blacksmith and the Bull”, an epic poem set in Bosnia, by Nick Lipley. Being a member of Bosnia & Herzegovina Art Society, she chose regularly to exhibit her work in the biggest annual show in Sarajevo. And was honoured that recently she was included in Svjetionici: An Anthology and Monograph of Artists of Bosnia and Herzegovina in Diaspora, published by Art Rabic, Sarajevo.


Please click to enlarge: