Featured Artist – Sona Babajanyan

Each month, we will present a featured artist, to give you an insight into how they work and what drives them!
We present each artist with a set of twenty questions and ask them to answer at least ten of them.

Our featured artist for April, Sona Babajanyan works across many divergent media, from painting, drawing and digital media to fiction writing. Sona is one of Plexus Gallery’s founders and although she has stepped back from the organisational reigns, still has a great deal of input and involvement with it.

Sona Babajanyan

Sona Babajanyan is an Armenian-Australian artist and illustrator with a rich background as a literature translator, editor, and graphic designer. Her work, bordering on the surreal, is full of poetry and magic. Many of her pieces are held in private collections across Australia, Europe, and the US. She works in both traditional and digital media, creating in both colour and black and white.

Check out Sona’s solo online exhibition!

Whispers and waves

Until the end of April

How would you describe your art in five words?
Eclectic, authentic, evocative, enigmatic, bizarre.

Nocturnes of the Deep
Digital Composition, 2023

In an alternate universe where you couldn’t be an artist, what would you be doing, and why?
It depends on the universe, I believe. If it’s somewhat similar to ours, then maybe a writer? But I am sort of a writer in this one already, having just published my first book recently… Let’s venture into a somewhat different universe then. Here, I am a Changer of Ways. People come to me seeking very special and potentially dangerous entertainment (it’s probably illegal as well). I look at them, listen to them, and then I transform them. I alter their bodies, I alter their memories, and immerse them into the different worlds I craft for them. Temporarily. It’s an art form. Next-level VR, I guess, which very soon might be a reality in our universe as well. So, essentially, I end up being an artist again… no matter the universe.

Reflections
Limited edition archival print, 2023

Do you dream? Do your dreams influence your art in any way?
Oh yes, and I love my dreams, no matter how wild, crazy, and abstract they are. Sometimes, they have nothing to do with my daytime perception of myself as Sona, it seems that they’ve been sent to the wrong person. Sometimes the entity that is experiencing the dream is not even a person; it’s just some sort of a presence, that might occasionally grow a hand or a foot as needed. Years ago, I had a whole month of Japanese dreams. I was this little Japanese boy, and there was no recollection of “Sona” whatsoever. I was immersed in a completely different world, with serene Japanese landscapes and Japanese music. So weird and so amazing! I am really grateful to my dreams for this opportunity to experience life that daytime Sona cannot experience. Dreams as windows to the vast ocean of our subconscious mind have fascinated me all my life. I might not use them directly in my art, but I love diving into those deep waters of the subconscious and then coming back to light with some nice catch. As David Lynch said: “Down deep, the fish are more powerful and more pure. They’re huge and abstract. And they’re very beautiful.”

Two Moons - Sona Babajanyan

Two Moons
Acrylic on Ampersand Gesso board
30.5 x 40.5 cm

How does your background influence your art, and can you give a specific example in one of your works?
Well, the background is background. It’s always there, no matter how much paint you smear over it. For most of my life, I never tried to openly demonstrate my background in my art, but I knew that it was always there, showing out somehow. I never liked explicit, loud messages. I love heavy textures that show just a hint of the background and let viewers see the layers (history). But for the last several years, I guess I started becoming more explicit myself, feeling a need to make my background more visible. Is that me aging, or me being far from my country and my people, or the fact that my country and my people today are heavily wounded and struggling for existence? Probably a bit of everything. I have a whole series of paintings that are called Imprints, using Armenian type as a background. Then there is a series of collages called Patched, where I try to rearrange the disparate fragments of ripped-off older works into some new wholeness.

Sona Babajanyan - Patched 5

Patched #5
Mixed media collage on board
46 cm x 60 cm
, 2022

When did you realise that you are an artist?
I have been drawing and painting since I can remember, and for a long time, I was convinced that I am an artist—and a great one, at that. I can’t pinpoint exactly when and how that confidence was broken or dissipated, but eventually, I followed my other passion, literature, and for many years, visual art became more of a hobby for me. This changed when I moved to Australia and figured out that a translator of literature from Western Armenian to Russian was not the most sought-after profession here. It was both exciting and a bit scary—the realisation that I could actually live my childhood dream.

Journey - Sona Babajanyan

Journey
Open edition print on archival paper
See it on Sona’s sit
e

How do you think artificial intelligence could impact the future of art and your practice in particular?
Well, the future is here, I guess, and we all are already experiencing its impact. It’s huge; it’s a shift of paradigm, I think. I always embraced new technologies, realising that they are inevitable and instead of being in denial we better try to make them work for us in the best possible way. For our benefit. And that would be the best way of resistance. It’s not an easy task. The progress is a tricky thing. Because by delegating all the hard work to machines, by making our lives “easier” (supposedly to free more time for more creative and cool stuff, at least that was the initial idea, wasn’t it?) we gradually lose lots of skills on the way. But I believe that’s not the biggest problem because soon enough people will start valuing “real” skills so much more. The main question would be, I think, to distinguish what’s real and what’s not.

Sona Babajanyan's collaboration with Ai 2024

Created in collaboration with Ai 2024

 What are you reading or listening to at present, does it inspire your work?
I am very eclectic, not just in my art, but also in my reading and listening habits. You can often find books on neuroscience, philosophy, and alchemy on my bedside table, mixed with some juicy murder mysteries. Currently, I’m diving into “The Tree of Knowledge: The Biological Roots of Human Understanding” by Humberto R. Maturana and Francisco J. Varela, “The Adventurous Heart: Figures and Capriccios” by Ernst Jünger, and a hefty tome of the Neil Gaiman Reader. As for music, it’s always on when I’m painting. Most recently, I’ve been enveloped in Andreas Scholl’s Bach cantatas and Tigran Hamasyan’s recent albums. Yes, I’m quite eclectic. This cornucopia of sounds and narratives certainly inspires me, but most often in some subtle, indirect ways. More like a fertiliser.

Sona Babajanyan in her studio

Do you believe that art can change the world? If your art could change one thing, what would it be?
As I mentioned before, I am not a big fan of art sending out loud direct messages. I don’t trust them myself. The louder the message, the less I trust it, the more I resist it. But then art can move, art can touch, so just like the subtle and seemingly insignificant flutter of a butterfly’s wings, the art we create and the ideas we share can ripple outwards, influencing others and the world in ways we might not even imagine.

Sona Babajanyan - Strange Horseman-V1

Strange Horseman – V1
Unique edition archival print on Hahnemühle Bamboo paper
Image, 21cm x 21cm, Framed:30cm x 30 cm, 2022

What exciting projects, exhibitions, or events do you have lined up for the near future?
This year, I’m thrilled to have been invited to participate in the StoryArt exhibition, an annual event organised by Book Links. It’s held at the Richard Randall Art Studio in the Mt Coot-tha Gardens. The exhibition will run from April 22nd to 25th and will showcase the work of four children’s book illustrators, including myself. It’s an exciting chance to share my illustrations with a broader audience and to connect with fellow artists in the field. The opening night is on Wednesday, April 24 from 5 pm until late. Books and illustrations are available for purchase. The admission is free, so welcome everyone, I’d love to see you there! https://booklinks.org.au/exhibitions/

An illustration for Sona’s own translation of Mary Poppins into Armenian
Part of the StoryArt exhibition

What vision do you have for our Plexus Gallery, and how do you see your role in it?
As you might be aware, I co-founded Plexus Gallery alongside Billy Shannon. We were so excited about developing a new, innovative, and flexible format for an art gallery—a hybrid that would merge the traditional brick-and-mortar approach with an online platform. A place fostering independent talent and eventually turning into a vibrant and creative community. Quite ambitious and very exciting, indeed. We hosted several successful shows, both online and as pop-ups, but it soon became clear that to truly thrive and be sustainable, the project demanded much more investment of time and effort. I wasn’t prepared to make that commitment. So eventually, I decided to step back from my “managerial role”:) Billy, on the other hand, is not giving up, and has shown remarkable devotion and persistence. While I am more than happy to support his initiatives and assist in any possible way, I want to be able to devote more time to my own art and projects. We continue to explore ways to sustain Plexus without it overwhelming our schedules. And I believe this monthly Featured Artist initiative is a great step in this direction.

Check out Sona’s solo online exhibition!
Until the end of April

Whispers and waves

Our next featured artists are…

May

Renata Buziak veiny

Renata Buziak

Renata Buziak (PhD) is a photo-media artist, educator and researcher passionate about physically engaging nature and organic processes in her interdisciplinary practice, and was one of the very first artists to start working with us!

June

Meredith Macleod - to silence and I

Meredith Macleod

Meredith Macleod’s work is a reflection upon significant and frequently ignored issues relating to the struggle between intellect, emotion and reality.

We look forward to taking you on a deep dive into their processes in the coming months!

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