Contemporary artists still living and working in their native Iran
After years of negotiations between Iran, the P5 + 1 (made up of Russia, US, China, France, UK and Germany) and the European Union, an agreement was set up in Vienna in July 2015, guaranteeing the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program in return for a gradual alleviation of economic sanctions on the country. Donald Trump considered it, “the worst agreement ever negotiated,” with the potential to unleash a “nuclear holocaust.”
The Iranian diaspora is significant. And whilst the public knows a number of Iranian artists, they often live outside their country. Here, H A P P E N I N G reflects on contemporary Iranian artists living in Iran who bear witness to the political and cultural events that disrupt their country.
Born in 1923, Farmanfarmaian studied Fine Art at Tehran University and at the Parsons School of Design in New York. Her work combines traditional Iranian art with modern western abstraction. Her large geometric compositions, inspired by Mashrabiyas and painted on inverted glass, are particularly memorable. During the explosive Revolution of 1979, Farmanfarmaian left Iran for New York for 26 years. Throughout this period she experimented with collage and drawing, as well as with carpets and textiles. Today, after returning to Tehran, the artist revisits the research she began before the Revolution with the help of like-minded artisans.
FARHAD MOSHIRI (born 1963)
His creations seem light and superficial, but it’s quite the contrary; behind these light and sometimes kitsch compositions, Moshiri reveals a more ambiguous reality. Skilled in multimedia (painting, installation, videos, sculptures with embroidery, sequins, etc.), his installation Life is Beautiful (2009) was created entirely with knives embedded into a wall. Influenced by Pop artists (Andy Warhol in particular), through his popular subjects and recurring references to mass consumerist society, the Moshiri’s work often displays a coy sense of irony. For instance, Crying Queen (2012) represents the well-known icon of popular culture, Snow White, crying into a tissue. His generous use of embroidery refers to traditional artisanship.
Farhad Moshiri, I'm so fucking happy, 2010. Courtesy galerie Thaddaeus Ropac
SHIRIN FAKHIM (born1973)
H A P P E N I N G spoke with the artist regarding her exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery, “Unveiled: New Art from the Middle East.” Her series Tehran Prostitute (2008) pays homage to prostitutes from all cultures. Fakhim gives life to these clothed mannequins and exacerbates their enticing features: stockings, thongs, latex bras and wigs. The mannequins, which appear bizarre and dismembered, allow the artist to appropriate the fundamental eroticism from these sex workers.
Shirin Fakhim, Tehran Prostitute, 2008. Courtesy the artist
Simin Keramati, Untitled, 2012. Courtesy Etemad Gallery
AFSHIN PIRHASHEMI (born 1974)
The woman’s place in Iranian society is the focal point of this artist’s hyperrealistic paintings, where the colour palette is reduced to a minimum by the dominance of black and white. Her gothic-fantasy style returns power to women by representing them as warrior heroines, armed with sabres and dressed in sweeping black clothes - far from thoughts of the Iranian hijab. Other works depict vengeful women, armed and threatening the seductive man.
Afshin Pirhashemi, Dynasty (2014). Courtesy Ayyam Gallery
BARBAD GOLSHIRI (born 1982)
An artist as talented with a camera as he is with installation and graphic drawing, Bargbad Golshiri’s most recognised work is a photographic series of tombs and shrines. The cenotaphs he constructs pay respect to the tombs of anonymous men who died during the Iranian Revolution, as well as political and intellectual dissidents assassinated by the regime between 1988 and 1998.
Barbad Golshiri, The Portrait of the artist as a one year Old child (2005) print on canvas