Tell me what you see: Alli Royce Soble exhibit asks viewers to interpret paintings

You’ve most likely seen her at some of the hippest gay and gay-friendly parties and events, shooting photos of DJs and dancers in motion, bright streaks of lights capturing them in the moment.

alli royce sobleBut Alli Royce Soble is also an accomplished painter and will have a solo exhibit at Ponce City Market on Saturday, May 10. Royce, 41, an Atlanta native, is also known for her pouring skills behind the bar at Virginia-Highland hot spot La Tavola, a job she’s had since 2000. She also shoots the restaurant’s food photography and portraits.

“It has been such an amazing place,” Soble says. “I have met some fantastic people over the past 14 years and I still love working there. There are several guests of mine that are also collectors of my work.”

The passion for photography and then painting came at an early age and it’s one she will always pursue, she says.

“Even as a little kid, I was always taking photos at school of people. I still have my Kodak Disc camera from the ’80s. I shot with film, y’all!” she says.

Meanwhile, Soble took every painting class possible during her time at Georgia State University where she honed her skill of combining painting and photography. “I have always been an artist,” she says. “I knew that is what I was going to be.”

GAVO: Describe what work will be exhibited—the medium and what you are trying to express.
ROYCE: The work is acrylic on canvas abstract expressionism. This series is from the past two years from two different studios. I took a bit of a hiatus in 2013, so part of the work is from 2012 and most is from these past five months.

When did you start painting? What is your process like?
I started painting back in 1997 while in college at GSU getting my BFA in photography. I was never very good at drawing, so I felt that I would not be good at painting either. My professor, Larry Walker, was the one who inspired me to begin painting. The class was mixed media and collage. This allowed me to bring in my photography and mix it within the paintings. This was a great transition for me and allowed me to become comfortable with the paints and trying different processes. Over the years, I have let go of the collage aspect and focused purely on paint on canvas. I have been painting ab- stract work for over 10 years now. It is always evolving and changing. Even the work over these past few months has altered.

I paint with acrylic, because I use a lot of water to create texture in my pieces. Although oil is so lush and beautiful, I do not have the ventilated space for all the solvents necessary to do my work. Plus, I do not have the patience for the drying time. The process is a bit of a “controlled chaos.” My intention is there, but the result varies. I have chosen the size of the canvas and I have an idea of my color palette, but what occurs is organic.

What tools do you use?
It depends on the variables. Do I use wet paint on a dry canvas, is it wet canvas and thick paint, or dry canvas with liquid paint? Has the canvas dried enough to add more or did I add too much water this time? The floor in my studio is a little wonky, so which way will the paint roll? These are all factors.

I use an array of old brushes that I have had for years. I have an array of spray bottles used for mixing paints on and off the canvas. There are different tools for scraping and shifting. I have ruined many floors.
I always love hearing what people see when they look at my work. Sometimes they see people or landscapes. I am eager to hear what you see. Tell me.

What’s it like to have an exhibit at the brand new Ponce City Market?
I am very excited about being asked to show my work in this new space. Ponce City Market Pop Up Gallery is brand new to the scene. I am the third installation to be exhibited. I am following up some great artists already shown since March. Susan Bridges of Whitespace represented Tommy Taylor, and Cash Rojas Projects are currently representing Lonnie Holley. This space is one of the only spaces in Ponce City Market open to the public. I am very excited to see what PCM does for Atlanta and the surrounding community.

What about your photography? You are often seen at many parties and events taking photos, mostly casual photos. You also take professional photos. How do painting and photography complement each other?
A lot of people do know me as a photographer, not as much as a painter. I guess, socially, people always see me out at events taking photographs and documenting life in Atlanta. Like I mentioned before, I have been painting since 1997, almost as long as I have been taking photographs professionally. What I love about photography is that I can capture life in a moment. Reality. What I love about painting is to create something out of nothing. I create an emotion by the colors I choose and the textures I create. The emotion is also reality.