Iran’s Artist Residencies Are Challenging Tradition

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From left to right: Abolfazi Shahi, Recommendation Series, woven wool, 2012. Taher Pourheidari, from Beyrouth La Belle Mariee Series, oil on canvas, 2012. Monika Grabushnigg, Placing echoes on facades, 2016. Golnar Adili, The King-Seat of my eye is the place of repose for your imagination, two photographs and thread, 2011.

Iran has a contemporary art scene that is quietly, but confidently, sneaking up on its more widely appreciated traditional art community. Hosting a variety of residencies and studios, cities such as Isfahan and Shiraz are coming together to make contemporary Iranian art heard, building bridges between the East and the West, and most importantly, challenging that stereotypical image which pops into our head when we think ‘Iranian Art’.

Endjavi Barbé – Art project, based in Shiraz is run by critic-curator Mojgan Endjavi-Barbé, who left her native Iran at the age of 19. The project has been devised as a way to help young Iranian artists enter the international contemporary art scene. Featured on Collectionair, this project hosts artists whose practices often reflect traditional Iranian craft with the use of paint, sculpture and textiles, but mastered around fresh and vibrant contemporary influences. Specific to visual art, EBAP places the work of these young artists in collections around the world, whilst creating national and international platforms on which they can exhibit.

In Isfahan, you will find the Va artists residency, run by Mona Aghababaee and Samira Hashemi, both artists themselves. The residency connects artists, curators and writers through workshops, talks and projects held both in Iran and internationally. The directors positive and contagious energy is reflected in the artists they host, most recently Monika Grabuschnigg, an Austrian visual artist based in Berlin, who spend one month at Va.

In her project Placing echoes on facades, the artist explored how sculptures created in Berlin, but based around her own sentimental and perhaps even prejudiced view of Iran, could adapt and change meaning at the hands of local artisans. From Berlin to Isfahan, and back again, the sculptures transformed both visually and conceptually, from the contemporary trend of pure white that we have come to easily understand, to embellished mirrored mosaics and miniature painted objects, more traditional to Iranian art. The result is a reflection of the forward thinking direction of the Va residency, where connections between the East and West are encouraged as a way to break down pre-fabricated conceptions of the Middle East.

Grabushnigg’s other project, Interweaving void, incorporated three standard sized prayer carpets using drawings from her stay during the residency and was produced at the local Haghighi Isfahan carpet factory. Many modern prayer rugs offer only a standard range of symbols, manufactured in a commercial process intended for an international market and tourist trade. Interweaving void highlights the modern breach between traditional craftsmanship, the idea of art as a sacred good and it current existence as a consumerist object.

At Collectionair, we welcome with open arms the bridge between the West and East. Click here to explore these works weaving their way west.

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