Best of Dubai | Selections explores the most interesting and inspiring exhibitions set to grace Dubai’s galleries this autumn

Roshanak Aminelahi | Gordafarid
Ayyam Gallery
September 13 to October 28

We all need something to inspire us. For Roshanak Aminelahi, an Iranian artist who has lived and worked in Dubai for over a decade, that inspiration comes from Persian warriors from the first century. Despite their historical specificity, she feels the themes they demonstrate are directly relevant to contemporary life.

Gordafarid is a heroine from the Shahnameh, an epic poem integral to Iranian cultural heritage. The legend goes that upon hearing that their leader had been captured, Gordafarid disguised herself as a man by putting on knight’s armour and rode out to fight Sohrab, commander of the Turanian army. Aminelahi highlights that today such courage and wisdom is seen across the world, specifically in the bravery of Kurdish women taking up arms to protect their villages in northern Syria. She is the subject of the largest painting in the exhibition, sat astride a horse moving across the canvas, almost a blur.

In her technique, Aminelahi applies paint in quite a unique manner, leaving brushmarks raised on the surface, mixing and layering media. In her pixelated effect, she recalls the French pointillists. The thick, textured nature of her paintings feels close in spirit to 20th century San Francisco Bay Area painters such as Jay DeFeo. Indeed, Aminelahi is currently pursuing a second graduate degree in illustration from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco.

There is also an affinity with fellow Iranian painters, such as Dubai-based artist Reza Derakshani, alongside whom she has worked since arriving in the Emirates. Aminelahi trained under influential painters in Iran after graduating in 2000 and has exhibited frequently at art spaces and institutions in Tehran, but this is her first solo exhibition in Dubai. The allegories, symbolism and pathos evident in these ambitious canvasses prove that Aminelahi is a worthy addition to the Ayyam Gallery programme.

Featured image: Warrior Riding, 2016, mixed media on canvas, 220 x 200 cm

A version of this article appeared in print in Selections, A Dialogue Between Generations of Arab Women in Art #42, page 37.