Contemporary art through the lens of Iran
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Contemporary art through the lens of Iran

Announcing Parasol Unit Foundation for Contemporary Art’s group exhibition - Nine Iranian Artists in London: The Spark Is You - on view till September 8, 2019.

by Sukanya Garg Aug 29, 2019

Parasol Unit Foundation for Contemporary Art presents the exhibition Nine Iranian Artists in London: The Spark Is You, a group exhibition of works by contemporary Iranian artists whose vision looks beyond the ordinary. Curated by Ziba Ardalan, Founder, Artistic and Executive Director of Parasol Unit in London, the participating artists include Morteza Ahmadvand, Nazgol Ansarinia, Ghazaleh Hedayat, Sahand Hesamiyan, Koushna Navabi, Navid Nuur, Sam Samiee, Hadi Tabatabai, and Hossein Valamanesh.

The exhibition is presented through a prism of classical Persian poetry, and fittingly, coincides with the 200th anniversary of West-oestlicher Divan (West-Eastern Divan), 1819, a book of lyrical poems written by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in homage to the fourteenth-century Persian poet Hafez. The exhibition, which includes paintings, sculptures, photographs, installations and film, focuses primarily on early and mid-career artists who live either in Iran or elsewhere in an adopted country. A sense of duality exists within their works, with concepts stemming from private and collective experiences manifested either figuratively or in the abstract. Living and working in disparate parts of the world, each of the artists responds uniquely to modern society, yet a common heritage of poetry, evident in their use of metaphor and parable, runs through all their works.

Nazgol Ansarinia, The Mechanisms of Growth, Demolishing Buildings, Buying Waste, 2017 plaster, glue, PVC, pigment, dimensions variable, Nine Iranian Artists in London: The Spark Is You, installation view 1 at Parasol unit, London, 2019; Courtesy the artist and Green Art Gallery, Dubai| Nine Iranian Artists in London| The Spark Is You | STIR
Nazgol Ansarinia, The Mechanisms of Growth, Demolishing Buildings, Buying Waste, 2017 plaster, glue, PVC, pigment, dimensions variable, Nine Iranian Artists in London: The Spark Is You, installation view 1 at Parasol unit, London, 2019; Courtesy the artist and Green Art Gallery, Dubai Image Credit: Benjamin Westoby

In the ground-floor gallery, The Mechanisms of Growth, Demolishing Buildings, Buying Waste, a work by artist Nazgol Ansarinia is on display. While the work gives the impression of pallets of rubble, the installation in fact is made up of glue bricks and handmade plaster, based on a 3D printed mould. The fragments of the demolished building references the artist’s city in Tehran, which has repeatedly been demolished by anarchists and changed the landscape of her hometown.

Hadi Tabatabai, Transitional Spaces, 2017 thread, acrylic paint, aluminium frame, wooden platform, 213 x 122 x 305 cm, Nine Iranian Artists in London: The Spark Is You, installation view 2 at Parasol unit, London, 2019; Courtesy the artist| Nine Iranian Artists in London| The Spark Is You | STIR
Hadi Tabatabai, Transitional Spaces, 2017 thread, acrylic paint, aluminium frame, wooden platform, 213 x 122 x 305 cm, Nine Iranian Artists in London: The Spark Is You, installation view 2 at Parasol unit, London, 2019; Courtesy the artist Image Credit: Benjamin Westoby

Works by artist Hadi Tabatabai combine drawing, painting and sculpture, frequently in grids and modules, with a limited chromatic palette and a defined set of variables. In the work Transitional Spaces, a large installation of multiple upright panels, the artist creates subtle movement within the surface planes through the use of line, light and shadow. By precisely and tightly stretching threads within frames, Tabatabai confuses the depth of field and plays with positive and negative space by painting squares and rectangles on the different layers of thread, thereby creating an optical illusion as one moves around the work.

Koushna Navabi, Untitled (Tree Trunk), 2017, mixed media, 45 x 150 x 38 cm, Nine Iranian Artists in London: The Spark Is You, installation view at Parasol unit, London, 2019; Courtesy the artist| Nine Iranian Artists in London| The Spark Is You | STIR
Koushna Navabi, Untitled (Tree Trunk), 2017, mixed media, 45 x 150 x 38 cm, Nine Iranian Artists in London: The Spark Is You, installation view at Parasol unit, London, 2019; Courtesy the artist Image Credit: Benjamin Westoby

The disturbing work by artist Koushna Navabi, Untitled (Tree Trunk), 2017, explores aspects of identity and alienation. The dismembered female body made from a tree trunk suspended from a metal wire is a metaphor for the pain of exile and the sense of severance caused by the same.

Sahand Hesamiyan, Nahankhane, 2017 stainless steel, gold leaf, electrostatic coating, 212 x 212 x 412 cm, Nine Iranian Artists in London: The Spark Is You, installation view at Parasol unit, London, 2019; Courtesy the artist| Nine Iranian Artists in London| The Spark Is You | STIR
Sahand Hesamiyan, Nahankhane, 2017 stainless steel, gold leaf, electrostatic coating, 212 x 212 x 412 cm, Nine Iranian Artists in London: The Spark Is You, installation view at Parasol unit, London, 2019; Courtesy the artist Image Credit: Benjamin Westoby

Further, artist Sahand Hesamiyan’s work Nahankhane is displayed on the outdoor terrace of the London gallery. Exquisitely made of stainless steel, gold leaf and electrostatic coating, it has a quiet yet commanding presence. Its exposed structure reinterprets the geometry of traditional Persian architecture and, as the artist has said, holds ‘its abandoned equivalent’ deep inside. The title Nahankhane translates as a small enclosed space deep within a temple, and as in ancient Greece was specifically intended to host solitary prayer. For Hesamiyan it is a ‘glamorous and glorious’ interior space within the open simplicity of its outer shell.

Morteza Ahmadvand Flight, 2008, video, 2:48 minutes, Nine Iranian Artists in London: The Spark Is You, installation view at Parasol unit, London, 2019; Courtesy the artist | Nine Iranian Artists in London| The Spark Is You | STIR
Morteza Ahmadvand, Flight, 2008, video, 2:48 minutes, Nine Iranian Artists in London: The Spark Is You, installation view at Parasol unit, London, 2019; Courtesy the artist Image Credit: Benjamin Westoby

The exhibition highlights the vital importance of open dialogue towards developing greater understanding between all nations. Particularly in today’s tumultuous and uncertain times, these themes are timely and informative in ways that we hope will further engender curiosity, understanding and appreciation of other cultures and stimulate ever more conversations. The exhibition is on view in London till September 8, 2019. 

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About Author

Sukanya Garg

Sukanya Garg

Garg is an artist and writer with a Masters degree in Public Policy from Duke University, USA. She has been involved in research, planning and execution of gallery exhibitions and external projects in collaboration with curators. Her writing has been published in several art magazines, journals and as part of curatorial notes and catalogues, and her work has been showcased in multiple exhibitions.

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