REBEL, REBEL | THE CURVE, BARBICAN

Soheila Sokhanvari, Wild at Heart (Portrait of Pouran Shapoori), 2019, Credit © Soheila Sokhanvari, courtesy Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery.

Soheila Sokhanvari transforms the Curve into a devotional space, populated with exquisite miniature portraits of glamorous cultural figures from Iran. The project spotlights the rarely told histories of these women, who pursued creative careers in a culture enamoured with Western style but not its freedoms.

Soheila Sokhanvari, Wild at Heart (Portrait of Pouran Shapoori), 2019, Credit © Soheila Sokhanvari, courtesy Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery.
Soheila Sokhanvari, Wild at Heart (Portrait of Pouran Shapoori), 2019, Credit © Soheila Sokhanvari, courtesy Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery.

With humour and verve, Rebel Rebel explores the contradictions of Iranian women’s lives between 1925 and the 1979 revolution – an explosive period of both liberation and commodification that proved short lived.

ABOUT THE ARTIST

Soheila Sokhanvari is a British/Iranian artist, whose multimedia work cultivates a non-uniform practice and her works deal with contemporary political landscape with a focus on pre-revolutionary Iran of 1979. She is drawn to events and traumas that linger in the collective consciousness or cause mass amnesia. In her Iranian crude oil on paper drawings, faced with political events and traumas of contemporary Iranian politics that are impossible to represent, she plays with meaning and materiality by allowing the medium to carry the political message. Crude oil as the most precious commodity of modern times implicates us all and addresses our relationship to this material be it economic, political, ecological and social. By employing crude oil, a non-art material, these drawings tell the narrative of the collective narrative through the story of the individual in relation to the mass consumer society and energy-hungry world. Where oil rich countries negotiate and battle for democracy and liberty but at a human cost.

Her miniature paintings employ the traditional technique of egg tempera on calf vellum by grinding colour pigments so in effect they are comparable to modern illuminations.
She is interested in the practice of magic realism, symbolism and allegory that allows political and social commentary through poetry, metaphor and subtext. Magic realism being the most useful tool that allows slippage in meaning that resists the totalitarian discourse of all kind. Employing calf vellum in her paintings and drawings functions as a symbolic gesture; calf representing the animal that is sacrificed in all monotheistic religions becomes the symbol of the sacrifice of the individual and the artist.

Her practice also includes using found objects from taxidermy to genuine expired passports. The concept of political, social and the individual remains the core of her concern and addresses our collective traumas and consciousness.


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