Art is a healing wand and a talking stick. Art is the expression of my lived experience. This is where I’ve been since the end of the 20th century.
Homeland / Exile – 2002 – 2010
Homeland / Exile explores the negation of culture through language as a condition of dispossession, taking on a circular journey from destruction of homelands, to the establishment of refugee camps and the possibility of resolution amongst the flames.
The collection of works in Homeland / Exile were developed over a 8 year period. I was inspired to create this series after my trip to Iran in 2002. This was an intense trip both in terms of re-connecting to my beloveds as an adult, but also this was the era of post- 9/11. I had traveled the Europe on my own for 3 months in early 2001 and less than 12 months later the tensions around national security and vamping up of airport security was palpable.
This journey to the motherland was deeply concerned which finding my roots, returning to my place of origin was an emotional one and the fact that I had no literacy in Farsi and very limited spoken language really impacted my sense of self. My family are highly educated people in Iran, doctors, engineers, poets, artists, teachers, writers, storytellers and I couldn’t express myself as deeply as I would have liked. My childhood in Australia was about assimilation and my parents never pressured us to go to Saturday school to learn Farsi. The path of least resistance was the philosophy and it was only in my twenties that the realisation of what was lost hit me.
I returned from this trip determined to regain the lost parts of myself by getting back to basics. Learning to write the Persian alphabet and numerals. Thus, began this epic body of work. Life events around that time also deeply influenced me. I participated in the protest against the war in Iraq (No Blood for Oil), I was drawn to a major retrospective of John Pilger’s investigative journalism at the MCA, I watched a series of documentaries on SBS called Promises about the dispossession of Palestinian homes and considered the destruction of my own grandfather’s home and of which weaved a rich tapestry of motifs in my work.
This series of work is my largest by far and the feelings around this work still echo in my recent explorations. The works include drawings, painting, assemblages, digital photographs /film stills and a sound installation.
In Miniature – 2010 – 2011
Inspired by Persian miniature paintings and Sufi teachings, these small scale works call on meditative practice and links to classical iconography. Stylistically quite different from other works, however, there are re-occurring symbols and use of text that are present in other bodies of work.
I began studying Sufism in 2005 and found myself on a 10year journey through the heart. As part of the Sufi practice we would chant beautiful poetry and prayers. I always felt such a deep connection to spirit in these moments.
During early morning prayer ritual I would make intuitive sketches and copy calligraphic text in my note book. Eventually these developed into small scale works and In Miniature was born. The works are mainly mixed media expressing the amalgamation of personal signs and symbols with calligraphy and the practice of Sufi chanting. These works are of a intimate scale, echoing the principles of Sufi heart meditation, they also have a historical connection to Persian miniature painting and storytelling.
I used the colour turquoise and gold throughout the series to further reference to connection with the divine. In Ancient times turquoise was reserved for royalty and believed to have sacred properties of the gods. We see these colours today in many Islamic art forms and architecture. It is a colour that also holds many memory triggers of my childhood. I have recently returned to this theme of turquoise in my latest works.
In Transit- 2015
IN TRANSIT is the theme of IWVAC-Australia’s launch exhibition. The exhibition explored the physical space- en route- to a new life in Australia and the promise of freedom as well as the transient state of being as we travel the path of self-knowledge, new awakenings and emerging identities.
My works in particular examined the concept of time and language. The collection of drawings, paintings and installations reference the time spent in transit to freedom for asylum seekers and the duality in the use of language as a tool to disseminate the fear of otherness.
For this exhibition I pushed myself to work outside of my usual practice of drawing and mixed media. I experimented with found materials and reflective surfaces. It is quite a large collection of works which I also exhibited at Me Artspace as part of the Spirit Sisters joint exhibition I curated and in the Other Art Fair, Sydney in 2016.
Pictured above is a paper boat installation, in the center of the black void is a red paper board with the words “Azadi” written in Farsi which means freedom. I invited the audience to create their own paper boat using Japanese origami technique and place their boat in the installation. On the paper was printed the Values and Principles statement of Australian society, what we all pledge to uphold when becoming a citizen. Some of the words are highlighted such as freedom, compassion for those in need, egalitarian, peacefulness. As the participant folds the paper into the boat these words fade in and out of view.
A candid exploration of memory fragments from my early childhood investigating the poignancy of ‘the moment before’ we left Iran to come to Australia. The life that I never lived and the shadows of the subconscious.
Fragmented is the second major group exhibition of IWVAC-Australia and explores materiality, identity and duality.
My works reflect on fragments of memories, and poignant moments from my past. I am interested in documenting ‘the moment before’ leaving Iran to immigrate to Australia as a young child and in a broader context how the dramatic tension of the various moments before significant events in one’s life can shape identity and sense of purpose.
For this body of work I developed three large scale oil paintings documenting the last moment before boarding the train to Tehran for our long journey to Australia in 1984. I created an immersive sculptural installation “Curfew” made up of poppy seeds and bird nests that symbolised the connection I have to my maternal grandmother. The story of her resilience and strength during the war always inspired me. My mother described how she would break curfew and bake bread on the roof tops to feed the family. I installed 15kg of poppy seeds and the smell of bread permeated the space reminding me of her. I also made a short film re-creating the imagery on the canvas in slow motion to bring that ephemeral moment to life.