Libby Leshgold Gallery


In Nadya Isabella’s debut solo exhibition A Toast to This Moment, everyday encounters open portals into hidden worlds. Phone screens, ponds, makeup, personal flames, moods, and urban ecology offer gateways into desires floating between fantasy and reality. Gesturing to a vivid elsewhere, Nadya’s paintings emerge from a process of daydreaming and remembering: inflatable tubes create space for peaceful ruminations at the centre of a lake; a cigarette droops between lips while lit behind an umbrella sheltering the wind; fluffy day glow moths gossip, sway, and nibble light; dew drops on spider silks mirror a thousand moons over an ocean.


The picture plane is a diary-—a place to index and recall aspirations, secrets, crushes. Snapshots kept on Nadya’s camera roll of past parties and loved ones are translated into painting. Shahin’s Cake (2022) and Baby’s Cake (2021) are part of an ongoing series documenting cakes shared with friends at celebratory gatherings. Mimicking the size of greeting cards, the intimately scaled paintings show the cakes lit with candles, catching the hold at the top of an inhale before blowing a wish. Within the ritual of celebration, a suspended breath opens a world of possibility.


A recurring character in Nadya’s practice is Toadetta—a glamorous toad with gorgeous lashes and It Girl charisma. She makes a few cameos in the exhibition. In Hors D’oeuvre (2022) a smitten Toadetta interlocks fingers with a lover at an elegant restaurant. Positioning the viewer in the seat of the suitor, the world beyond the table falls away into dreamy pastel hatching. Summer Storm (2022) shows Toadetta ripping down a palm tree-lined highway. With the roof of her convertible down, a streamer of musical phrases from Antonio Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, “Summer” (1793) escapes from the stereo and winds around the car. Tears collect behind her oval sunglasses as she drives into the sunset. Building on the trope of the ugly toad who is enchanted into beauty, Nadya’s cinematic styling of Toadetta signals an escape from ordinary life. Using source material drawn from movies, popular culture, and lived experiences, the familiarity of Nadya’s references helps orient viewers in the ephemeral worlds she paints. Romance, restlessness, melancholy, and relaxation elevates familiar happenings into baroque vignettes. In A Toast to This Moment, human and non-human protagonists overlap in intricate, cross-species narratives. Anthropomorphism becomes an instrument for empathy, a portal to communicate between two sides of a feeling.


Text by Kiel Torres.


Nadya Isabella (b.1995, Jakarta, Indonesia) is an artist currently living in Tiohti:áke, Montreal, Quebec. Tapping back and forth between the mundane and fantasy, Isabella’s paintings portray people, animals, and places from familiar surroundings. Her paintings primarily focus on the image as a vehicle of storytelling, a means to record and share feelings, sometimes blurring the lines between fiction and nonfiction. Her works are often based on personal snapshots and imagined fantastical theatrics taking place in the world, resulting in an eclectic collection of paintings. Isabella has exhibited locally and internationally. Recent solo and two-person shows include Swamp Sonata, dreams comma delta, Delta (2021), Honest Cuts, The New Gallery, Calgary (2020). Select group exhibitions include Visual Unpredictability, Patrick Parrish Gallery, New York (2021), Meet Me Under The Cherry Tree, Duplex Artist Society, Vancouver (2021), Bog Morals, tilling, Montreal (2021), homeplace, V.O Curations, London (2021) and Splinter Awe !!, Unit 17, Vancouver (2021). Isabella completed her BFA at Emily Carr University of Art + Design.




Canada Council for the Arts


Nadya Isabella, Hors D'oeuvre, 2022. Photo Credit: Brandon Brookbank