Maliheh Afnan – Farhad Ahrarnia – Mohammed Ehsai – Monir Farmanfarmaian – Parastou Forouhar – Shadi Ghadirian – Bita Ghezelayagh – Taraneh Hemami – Abbas Kiarostami –
Farhad Moshiri – Najaf Shokri – Mitra Tabrizian
‘Zendegi’ in Persian means Life. This first major group show of contemporary Iranian artists in Beirut, sheds light on life and art in Iran as seen through the eyes of several of its most prominent and emerging artists. Coming from different generations, and using diverse media, they present, investigate and interpret current themes and issues of relevance through their own aesthetic language, merging tradition with modernity.
The older generation pays homage to the country’s poetry, architecture and crafts: Monir Farmanfarmaianthrough her intricate and dazzling modernist compositions of mirrorwork and reverse glass painting, inspired by Islamic geometric patterns; and Mohammed Ehsai through his flowing calligraphy that reshapes old poetry into modern arrangements. Traces of letters, landscapes and faces, often merging or morphing into each other, are the subjects of Maliheh Afnan’s timeless works, in which she discreetly explores themes of displacement, exile and veiled lies; while the great filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami, in his minimalist film, Shirin, creates through the close-ups of some 100 women’s faces, a fascinating tension between film narrative and film imagery.
The younger generation also draws inspiration from traditional crafts, combined with contemporary aesthetics and techniques. In her beautifully embroidered felt sculptures, Bita Ghezelayagh revives the felt tradition, combining talismans, old imagery and political text with conceptual art. Embroidery is also a key feature in the work of Farhad Ahrarnia, who manipulates digital images, with threads and needles – From American beauty queens and soldiers and iconic figures from politics or popular culture. The relationship between image and politics is also investigated in the work of Taraneh Hemami, who translates photographs of ‘martyrs’ or ‘heroes’ into beaded curtains, thus paying homage to those who sacrificed their lives for freedom. Concern about the status of women – who best embody the conflict between tradition and modernity and the battle of the sexes – is explored in the work of photographer Shadi Ghadirian and multimedia artist Parastou Forouhar. Post-feminism, post-colonialism and the shifting realities of life in post-revolutionary Iran are among the main themes of the work of Mitra Tabrizian, who blurs the boundaries between fiction and reality in her carefully staged photographs. Farhad Moshiri’s Reservoirs of Memories – large canvas variations on the theme of vessels, typical of monochromatic functional Iranian pottery, hints at pop and modern consumerist culture through the vernacular sayings inscribed on them.
Whether living inside or outside Iran, these artists reflect on the exceptional as well as the ordinary events of daily life.
The exhibition is organised by Beirut Exhibition Center and Solidere, curated and produced by Rose Issa Projects. The shows is accompanied by an illustrated catalogue.
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