The Masques of Shahrazad bring Iranian art to London Mall Galleries

By Culture24 Staff | 10 March 2009
A picture of a team of women holding small rackets, coloured blue with their eyes peeled over

(Above) Samira Alikhanzadeh, The Oranque Roquet Team (2008)

Exhibition: The Masques of Shahrazad, The Mall Galleries, London, until March 14 2009

Thirty years ago the Iranian Revolution threw down the creative gauntlet to a generation of Iranian artists, surveying a new landscape in the country.

Three decades later, The Mall Galleries are tracing their development through work by 28 Iranian female artists, coinciding with International Women’s Day and considering some of the names who will “bear the standard for women’s art in Iran for decades to come.”

A picture of a painting with swirls of red and white

Mansoureh Hosseini, Refuge to Light (1996)

It’s inspired by Shahrazad, the heroine of Persian folklore whose cunning observation skills allowed her to escape the execution her 3,000 predecessors as wife of the ruling King had suffered.

“Their works are sharp, subtle and perhaps subversive, without appearing to be any of these things – this is the genius of the masque,” says curator Fariba Farshad, noting the parallels between Shahrazad and the featured artists.

A picture of a pair of shoes in a darkened room next to an open door

Shadi Ghadirian, Nil Nil (2008)

“Gradually, Iran’s female artists have engineered a shift in the limitations and barriers that constrained their predecessors, and have cleverly turned their weaknesses into strengths.”

“Each of the three generations of artists we have selected for this show have had to evolve their own strategy to circumvent authority and express themselves, overcoming their fears and showing things that other people are afraid of expressing.”

A picture of a painting of a red block of paint with black scrawls on it

Golnaz Fathi, Untitled (2008)

Their exploration of Iranian culture shares a sense of identity and heritage and, according to Farshad, has caused its own revolution.

“A strange thing has happened – the decision to be an artist is no longer frowned upon,” she observes.

A picture of a painting of a shadowy figure emerging towards light

Tahereh Samadi Tari, Restless (2008)

“Many of the parents of this new generation of artists know what Shahrazad knew – that in the making of art there lies a path to a kind of liberation.”

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