September 2023
Pearl In The Oyster #10 © Fatimah Hossaini

To know you better, could you tell us about you and your first steps in photography? 

To know me is to understand where it all started. 

My grandparents fled from Afghanistan to Iran in 1918, during the Soviet war. My parents also grew up in Iran. Even though the new generations started in Iran I could not be an Iranian, You must have Iranian parents, it is blood-related.

Pear In The Oyster #5 © Fatimah Hossaini

When I was 14, I started going to painting classes. Art was serious for me but not in an academic way. I didn’t think it could change my life. When I started mathematics in school, my parents wanted me to be an engineer so I started engineering studies for 4 years: the worst years of my life. In the last year of my studies, I started photography classes. This medium allowed me to be faster than with painting and I thought that maybe it could get me the result I wanted. After those classes and so many struggles especially with my family, I got a scholarship at Tehran University. 

I started my second bachelor degree in photography. I was the failed engineer just starting photography from zero, it was a big deal for me and my family. I am the first child in a Middle Eastern family: Can you imagine? Then I was working in Iranian ateliers, I exhibited my work and I decided to go back to Afghanistan after my graduation.

Pearl In The Oyster #32 © Fatimah Hossaini

After my third time in Kabul, I decided to stay. I started teaching at Kabul University in the photography department. After the Afghanistan civil war, the level between the Kabul and Teheran universities was so different. I used to take books to Kabul from Tehran. At the same time, I established my organization Mastooraat Art Organization for Women and Art, the empowerment of women through art and photography. 

The concept of being a woman is so beautiful.

As it relates to your organization, we would like to discuss the importance of women’s issues in your life and work.

For me, it is really important because of the context I come from. When you see in Paris how women are decision-makers here, I’m only dreaming we could have the same one day in Afghanistan. Maybe in 100 years. The concept of being a woman is so beautiful. When I think about Afghanistan, it was always because of men. They started the wars, but the victims were always women. When a country never sees a peaceful situation, it’s always because of disrespectful behavior towards women.

When a country never sees a peaceful situation, it’s always because of disrespectful behavior toward women.

Pearl In The Oyster #11 © Fatimah Hossaini

When I was in Tehran, I didn’t have a clear image of women in Afghanistan so I started « Beauty and War », a photo project that I really wanted to do. My sister and my mum were the first Afghan women who I photographed. When I went to Afghanistan, I realized how much colorful and beautiful it is and how nobody talked about it. I think that sometimes images like photos are stronger than words, and it was for me a way to express my feelings.

In Kabul, I made real friendships that allowed me to ask these women to take their pictures. I think you have a very clear and honest perspective when a woman is in front of you. As an Afghan woman, I went through the same struggles as these women, hence I could understand them well. 

As an Afghan woman, I went through the same struggles as these women hence I could understand them well.

Pearl In The Oyster #8 © Fatimah Hossaini

How did you distance yourself from documentary photography or photojournalism? 

Some of my pictures are natural and spontaneous. My work is a mix of staged and unstaged photography.

I always had an imagination and a vision about the Kabul streets or the mountains. My work is not real but it also is. These women are real, these shops and textiles are real, everything is real. But when I was looking at these shops, these mountains, it was always women’s history and objects made by the hand of women I could see, even though all the shoppers were men. In Afghanistan, as a woman, my brother or husband would have to buy me the things I wanted. The women make the textile, the men buy it for the women. Taking pictures of women in front of shops is staged photography. This was all my artistic imagination.

It was real because of my artistic imagination, but not real, you couldn’t see women shopping in Kabul.

Pearl In The Oyster #18 © Fatimah Hossaini

How difficult is it to talk about the women’s issue in Afghanistan? 

After the Civil War, many things have been taken away from us in Afghanistan, even colorful and positive things about our heritage and history. When you see in my new project with beautiful textiles and jewelry, is about heritage pieces made by women. Women made the cultural heritage, it is also a women’s story. When they were posing in front of my camera, there was a shame, a result of a special code of behaving that I could find in Afghanistan. We have many restrictions from society. I come from a very religious and traditional background; so it’s still not easy for me to reveal myself in front of the camera. I’m still uncomfortable with my body.

Women made the cultural heritage, it is also a women’s story.

Fahima Mirzaee © Fatimah Hossaini

Afghanistan is a state of men. In my photo projects, I had many problems with the publication of these women’s photos, even with the process of talking with them. Standing in front of the camera is already really complicated for these women.

By telling the stories of these women, by telling untold stories, I can give them a voice. I think I am responsible for telling the stories that I captured with photography through my activism. Women’s life under the Taliban regime is quite, at least I captured those last years of little freedom.

By telling the stories of these women, by telling untold stories, I can give them a voice.

Pearl in the Oyster © Fatimah Hossaini

I have regrets, If I had more time and freedom I could have done more.

Why did you choose a portrait to represent women? What were the consequences? 

Portraits are more intimate, I want to give my perspective on women’s history. The identity of my models is women, not Pashtuns, Hazara, or Tadjik. Being a woman can be my identity, being Afghan can be my identity, and being Iranian in heart can be my identity. I mix these identities. In the series taken in  the Zahak mountains in Bamyan, a Hazara area, the model is Tadjik from Badakhshan wearing traditional Hazara clothes. The red of the textile is a response to the genocide of the Hazaras.

Being a woman can be my identity, being Afghan can be my identity, and being Iranian in heart can be my identity.

Pearl In The Oyster #4 © Fatimah Hossaini

In my work, you could see beautiful women in the streets but there is more to be told. Their stories are central because of the Afghanistan context. I was a minority, a Hazara, hence I was more of a target with my almond eyes. Ethnicities have problems with each other especially Pashtuns, they think Afghanistan is for them, Hazaras are Mongolians, and Tadjiks are from Tadjikistan. It is not an easy problem. I put a Hazara woman next to a Pashtun woman, I got so much hate from these photos. In the first look, you can’t get it, the true narration is deeper.

You are in exile, disconnected from your roots and identities, how do you create?

I started my photo project in 2015 in Teheran, unfortunately, it stayed unfinished after the fall of Kabul and I was forced to live in Afghanistan in an American military aircraft. It was a very sad journey because I couldn’t believe one day I would be forced to leave my country as my grandparents did. I’m continuing to work, I’ve got a scholarship from the French Ministry of Culture. In a war context, exile is an easy choice but it’s a very heavy burden to bear. 

In a war context, exile is an easy choice but it’s a very heavy burden to bear.

Pearl In The Oyster #28 © Fatimah Hossaini

I took five pictures of women in exile to complete my project. Women in exile have stories about beauty, resilience, hope, and femininity. I found a new way to tell my story and the one of others. You can even see that the color of my photos has changed, I couldn’t find the colors of Afghanistan.

I’m now struggling with this new way of life, even though I had many opportunities and met amazing people. Exil is sad. I was just crying in the streets the first months I got here. Now I want to change the narrative. At the end of the day, it’s still not home. 

At the end of the day, it’s still not home.

Are you always your model while in exile?

Yes, self-portraits. It is a big change for me. I did not make a lot of public self-portraits.

In my new series, I picture myself with Hazara gloves and a Hazara hat which was the only one I could take with me after the Kabul fall. I’m now my model. I find things here that take me back to Afghanistan, the small things. I find Afghanistan in my father’s music, his playlist. My last project is linked to a Hazara music played by my father. In my new series, I still can’t look at the camera.

I find things here that take me back to Afghanistan, the small things. I find Afghanistan in my father’s music, his playlist.

Next projects?

Now, I have zero connection with my main photo project, and that’s why I want to stop working with the Afghanistan concept. I will close it. I started new projects with central Asian women, in both Asia and MENA regions. It is still about telling the stories of heritage, roots, and connections. It will be a challenge. At the end of the day, it is the same as Afghan women but in another context. It is always women. 

Fatimah Hossaini is the winner of the Habib Sharifi Prize x Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts in 2023.

Coverphoto (Home) : Fatimah Hossaini
Photos: Fatimah Hossaini
Text: Raphaël Levy
Fatimah Hossaini’s website

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JEANNE VICERIAL, From Margin to Center

JEANNE VICERIAL, From Margin to Center

March 2023
Photo from the short film "Une Renaissance" directed by Louise Ernandez from an original idea by Jeanne Vicerial and Louise Ernandez.

Between her soloshow at Templon and her presence at Lafayette Anticipations, this month of February was placed under the sign of Jeanne Vicerial and her black thread silhouettes. Following a shared moment with the artist at the beginning of February, it is a whole reflection that presents itself to you.

Credits : View of Jeanne Vicerial's solo exhibition: "ARMORS", 7 January - 11 March 2023, Galerie Templon, Paris.

How to characterize these shadowy mannequins, sometimes standing, sometimes lying?
The question is legitimate since Jeanne Vicerial is first of all a fashion designer by training. Are we in front of clothes that models would wear or in front of autonomous sculptures? Thin is the nuance as it was confirmed by the artist for whom the only limit is the “possibility for the sculptures to be invested by a body”. “A year ago”, she continues, “I was making clothing sculptures that were, for some, wearable: today at Templon, I made sculptures.” The body is both determining and constitutive of the work of the artist. 

Credits : View of Jeanne Vicerial's solo exhibition: "ARMORS", 7 January - 11 March 2023, Galerie Templon, Paris.

“This word of body is very equivocal” says Descartes for whom the term refers as much to the matter as to the soul. If we continue this thinking, the body is an empty vessel that one would come/wish to dress with meaning, it is as much a symbol as a tool.

With the exhibition Armors realized for the gallery Templon, Jeanne Vicerial “wanted to equip the body of women with an armor”. “The primary desire”, she reports, “was to “protect these ancient wet-draped-Venuses”, represented vulnerable as she saw it during her residency at the Villa Medici in 2019. Rome has many examples heroic men’s sculptures with projecting muscles, so why not redistribute the cards and arm all bodies? “The question of the relationship to the female body”, the artist tells us, “is something I have experienced in my personal construction”, reminding us of the universal part she places in her creations. The body of these naked Venuses is at the same time the body of the artist but more widely the body of all women.

With Armors, the artist insists on “the representation of the female body but especially of the different states of the female body misrepresented in the Art History as the topic of pregnancy, childbirth, abortion…”. It is as much about protecting as making these bodies visible. 

Credits : View of Jeanne Vicerial's solo exhibition: "ARMORS", 7 January - 11 March 2023, Galerie Templon, Paris.

The artist also reminds us that “the human presence of the body is intrinsic to the technique of knitting and weaving.” The technical process of Jeanne Vicerial is quite unique, it follows a partnership with the MINES ParisTech. It is a robotic tool that places the artist’s work at the level of digital craft.

Coming back to the body, Jeanne Vicerial’s artistic process was created on the basis of the made-to-measure and ready-to-wear involving obviously a pronounced taste for anthropomorphism. She creates silhouettes as a negative of the human body that would be in search of their opposite, their soul mate. In the work of the artist, the place granted to the research of the other can only lead to more profond pieces.

Credits : View of Jeanne Vicerial's solo exhibition: "ARMORS", 7 January - 11 March 2023, Galerie Templon, Paris.

For Sartre, the presence of the other precipitates a new dimension of the self. In the same way, the presence of the visitor/spectator (the other) fully activates the artistic and poetic potential of these armors since “the true bodies are those of the visitors”. The other is also the dancer, the performer who activates the pieces. Jeanne Vicerial recalls that her creations are only “traces of bodies” which make the echo of the visitor or the model. By this resonance, the artist has created universal bodies beyond gender, associating both male and female in a perpetual “mutation”. It is thus a question of silhouettes that refuse to be classified by gender in favor of the visibilization of universal images.

Credits : View of Jeanne Vicerial's solo exhibition: "ARMORS", 7 January - 11 March 2023, Galerie Templon, Paris.

It does not seem too ambitious to say that we all have a body to which these armors whisper hypnotic words, looking for the ideal host body to put on, as one puts on a glove on a hand. These armors are intended for the other, but especially for the Other, the Second Sex.

Coverphoto (Home) : Joseph Schiano di Lambo
Photos: Andrien Millot
Text: Raphaël Levy
Translation: Raphaël Levy

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Tehran based Bavan Gallery presents its first edition of a series of projects entitled “The Land Of The Cypress Tree”, opening during Art Dubai and open for the public until May.

This program of exhibition takes inspiration from the Cypress Tree of Abarkuh located in Iran’s province of Yazd believed to be the oldest cypress tree world. Numerous legends attributed to this tree, its original planting and the travelers who came to gaze upon it, it is above all a symbol of resistance and resilience, of survival under the most extreme conditions, the ideal expression of perseverance.

The eventful contemporary history of Iran has been rarely absent from media exposure and the talk of politicians and activists. How would one try to define himself while keeping out the ideals imposed by media, politicians, intellectuals and the general public? For many Iranian artists the answer has been an introspective exploration and an emphasis on individuality and the individual experience. As the social-political reality remains quite unique to Iran, so does the quality of individual experience in this country, and many artists offer inward journeys in their work that ultimately connect to the broad spectrum that is life in Iran.

“The Land Of The Cypress Tree” is a trans-generational group show Bavan Gallery shows the work of multiple generations of Iranian artists, a collage of ideas and ideals. For these artists the question of survival is often driven by the question “How far can one take one’s thought and imagination”?

“Today there are so many young and talented artists working in Iran especially women artists despite all their obstacles. I see their future so bright and Bavan tries to keep them internationally presented. I believe we will hear from Iranian artists more than before in the coming years.”

Ava Ayoubi, founder of Bavan Gallery

Coverphoto (Home): by Samira Alikhanzadeh
Photos (from top to bottom): works by Samira Alikhanzadeh, Mimi Amini, Elham Pourkhani, Zarbaf
Text: Anahita Vessier

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ALICE GRENIER NEBOUT, Nostalgia of a Lost Paradise

ALICE GRENIER NEBOUT, Nostalgia of a Lost Paradise

Alice Grenier Nebout is a French-Canadian artist who lives and works in Paris. We met her in her charming Parisian studio where she presents us her fantasies on canvas. 

You told me that all started one summer with a boat, could you tell us this story? 

This story is about a little girl who went on vacation with her dad but was terribly bored. This father, who is none other than mine, gave her brushes and paint to occupy her. The young girl set her pictorial sight on an old boat on the edge of the lake next to which they lived.

This boat became my lifeline, both an artistic support and a key to another world. I spent my days on this lake observing fish, frogs and birds. Somehow, I’m still that same child discovering the world. Basically, this boat symbolizes my encounter with painting and nature, two essential elements in my artistic practice.

“I seek to reunite the human with its natural environment.”

Human, nature, and animal, three motifs that recur in your paintings.

This trio, almost sacred to me, composes my paintings both in form and content. I seek to reunite humans with their natural environment, which requires colors capable of uniting nature, animal and man, such as blue which recalls the sea and its depth, the mystery or the third eye which opens us to the world and its knowledge. Moreover, it is important that there is this unity where these elements become universality of the world.

“These paintings are my only way to contribute to the rescue of nature.”

Representing nature today is not innocent. 

There is nothing innocent about me representing nature and putting it together with human because I am devastated by the recent climatic events. Using this nature in my paintings is the only way to make people understand the ecological situation in which we are. Linking animals, humanity and nature could make people understand that we must respect our world. These paintings are my only way to contribute to the rescue of nature.

After all, there is something very utopian in your work, the dreamed unity of all things. 

Absolutely, I get away from reality to create a world of my own in which I feel comfortable, where nature is protected, a world where harmony is the key word. I prefer to invent my own reality than to represent a reality already present. These paintings are like shields, they protect me from the outside world, from reality. 

Your vision of nature gives us the impression of observing Edenic gardens!

I keep representing gardens of Eden. It is a subject that will always recur, all my life. For me, we all come from there, we are all cousins. Of course, I detach myself from the religious dimension and I only keep this idea of unity and harmony. It is about a question of mental habits, the Western viewer is used to the biblical visual codes which allow him to enter these universes that I create. 

The Garden of Eden is also a man and a woman, equality in the duality of the sexes. 

Exactly, my paintings are also built by the duality between male and female. Something is interesting in the verticality of the trunks which mark my paintings; symbols that evoke sexuality and masculinity. These trunks are the very structure of my paintings. When the trees are painted, I have my balance. Without this masculine verticality, I am lost in these very feminine and sinuous mountains where everything is more flexible. Balance can only exist when the balance of the sexes is respected. 

“It is as if I was healing my wounds and massaging the pains of the world on the surface of the canvas.”

These men and women exude more than a sense of universality. 

It is also about sex. Sensuality and love are also essential components for me, which pass through the gesture since the funds are done by my hands. It becomes a very tactile and intimate work where I mix the colors by caressing them, being in this way closer to the canvas. Without this, it is impossible for me to instinctively put color on emotion. It is as if I was healing my wounds and massaging the pains of the world on the surface of the canvas. There is this need to feel the material slip under the palm of my hand. 

Does this sensuality serve the feminine and/or your femininity?

What is also important to me is the liberation of the female body from male gaze. I represent very feminine women, feeling comfortable in their bodies, reminiscent of ancient divinities. Indeed, the visual echo with Venus is obvious. It is the universal woman who represents love and beauty. It is by disguising these divinities with these characters and this nature that I express my femininity. 

My paintings are therefore almost an expression of femininity. Nature is a woman.

Coverphoto (Home) : Anahita Vessier
Photos : Anahita Vessier
Text: Raphaël Levy
Traduction : Raphaël Levy
Alice Grenier Nebout’s website

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Merging Horizons


« Merging Horizons » is an exhibition curated by Tatiana Gecmen-Waldek and Anahita Vessier in collaboration with Ab Anbar Gallery at Cromwell Place in London.

It refers to the concept of ‘fusion of horizons’ by the German philosopher Hans-Georg Gadamer (1900-2002) and creating a dialogue between two Iranian artists, Sonia Balassanian and Hessam Samavatian.

A dialectical concept that results from the rejection of two alternatives: objectivism, where the objectification of the other is achieved by forgetting oneself; and absolute knowledge, according to which that universal history can be articulated in a single horizon. Consequently, he maintains that we exist neither in closed horizons, nor in a single horizon.

This notion of « horizons » refers in our show to the visual perception of horizons one can find in Sonia Balassanian’s and Hessam Samavatian’s works as well as to « horizon » as a way to conceptualize our discernment. The horizon is as far as we can perceive or understand it. Comprehension occurs when our current knowledge is shifted to a new, broader horizon suggested by an encounter, an experience or even a surprise.

Our exhibition « Merging Horizons » interpretates this fusion by connecting the spectators’ knowledge with the artists’ expression of horizons broadening its perception beyond imagination.

Tatiana Gecmen-Waldek and Anahita Vessier

“Merging Horizon” private viewing cocktail at Cromwell Place, May 24th 2022:


Coverphoto (Home): flyer featuring Sonia Balassanian’s work “Untitled 2018”
Photos: Michal Rubin
Text: Tatiana Gecmen-Waldek & Anahita Vessier

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DANIELA BUSARELLO, Expressionist of the Living

DANIELA BUSARELLO, Expressionist of the Living

Daniela Busarello describes herself as a visual artist and expressionist of the living. Indeed, the place of biological entities, whether they are plants or humans, is central in the work of this artist who seeks to introspect the world around her. This is why she is interested in the relations between Man and Nature but also in the inter-human relations which are illustrated by a questioning on the feminist cause, among others.  

Foto: Piotr Rosinski

Painting is at the center of your current practice. Tell us how you turned from an architect in Brazil to a painter in France.

It was an exciting journey in which I finally found my voice. Without really knowing why, I found myself one day on a plane to Paris to spend a sabbatical year away from my work as an architect in Brazil. Perhaps it was the feeling that if I did not leave Brazil at this moment, I would never be able to do so ever again. I woke up on my 40th birthday in my Parisian apartment with the feeling that my anxieties were gone. So I decided to sign up for the School of Fine Arts, les Beaux-Arts de Paris.

It was an adult live drawing class with human models. I was lucky enough to have a great teacher who understood that it bothered me to copy things as they are, I wanted to get into them, see further, deeper than my eyes could. It was through my drawings that I discovered the interiority of the world and the bodies. What I discovered above all is my interiority: I am a painter, I am a woman.

“I am a painter, I am a woman.”

You call yourself a woman and not a feminist?

You know, I find there is something stronger to call oneself a woman, it’s being in opposition to the other sex: I am a woman. There is a benevolence, a look, a delicacy. It also brings a whole maternal side that feminism does not. 

We love being women with all our strengths and weaknesses, don’t we.

Absolutely, I don’t want to compete with men. I don’t want to be a man. I live with this feminine power, with all its strengths and weaknesses that drive my creation. It really comes from my viscera, I couldn’t do it differently. Softness, for example, is also a human trait, it’s the mankind that interests me. 

And where does this interest for humans come from?  

I think it comes from my former life when I was an urban architect. Before designing a project, I would have to study the ground, humans are central in the process. I think I’ve never stopped being sensitive about it and about the relationships with the Other, the Other being a human being, a plant, an animal, the city. These body-landscapes are born through my gesture, in the continuity of my own body.

You talk about environment, landscape, plants, we might think that humans are not your only muse. 

There is a concept in architecture and philosophy of the genius loci, the spirit of the place. It is an idea that inspires my practice and for which I really immerse myself in nature with a protocol that I have established. I start by taking pictures of plants, flowers, stones or trees that I will collect during one of my trips. I make with these collected materials a powder that I can use as paint. That’s how I keep the spirit and energy of a place. It is an interior quest but also a questioning about what unites us to all things, in other words, the cosmos.

And what is the place that concerns you most today?

Of course Brazil and especially the Atlantic Forest, on the eve of its disappearance. Picking a flower on the sidewalk, like I did, is also a piece of this great ecosystem endangered by human activity. 

“Painting has become my new breath, I can’t not paint.”

Somewhere you save the forests of Brazil in your own way by perpetuating them in your painting. Art has the aspiration to exist forever, perhaps unfortunately not the Atlantic Forest.

I didn’t see it like this, but you’re probably right, it’s like some kind of unconscious protection of my country. All these processes are also about Brazilian socio-cultural problems that are getting worse and worse with a real race to destruction. In fact, painting has become my new breath, I can’t not paint. It is all these conscious and unconscious worries and anxieties that I infuse in my gesture when I paint. Although I prepare some paintings beforehand, it doesn’t often end as I had imagined. The unconscious guides me and allows me to express myself freely on the canvas. It’s almost therapeutic. 

Your gesture brings a depth that transcends the simple description of the world…

However, it wasn’t always like this, my first paintings were quickly completed. It was the instantaneousness of human feelings and relationships that I was depicting. Today, the act of painting is more important and it takes me a month now to complete a piece. The time when I’m not painting is as important, because it allows me to think. It’s thanks to these large canvases that I understood that taking time brings another breath to my gesture, something very meditative.

“Taking the time brings another breath to my gesture.”

And all these trips, these ideas, where does it lead you? 

I see my current work as an imaginary journey, a kind of mental exhibition if you want. It allows me to work without any real pressure. I start to make the herbal paints I brought back from Brazil, it results in a very lively shades of browns that encourage me to continue my expeditions. I am going to participate at an artistic residency program in Bahia very soon.

Coverphoto (Home) : Piotr Rosinski
Photos : Piotr Rosinski ; Franck Jouery ; Luis Alvarez ; Gilad Sasporta
Text: Raphaël Levy
Traduction : Raphaël Levy
Daniela Busarello’s website

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MARYAM “MIMI” AMINI, Self-studies

MARYAM “MIMI” AMINI, Self-studies

Ever since her childhood, Mimi Amini enjoyed painting the objects around her and cutting their shape out of the paper, and then creating almost three-dimensional small-scale architectural models.
As a teenager she preferred to skip school and spending her day around the garden next to Isfahan’s Art High School, located in a fascinating area, close to Zayandeh-Rood river and the archeological museum,  looking at the art students sitting around with their drawing boards, working, drawing and painting.  

“The passion to find a proper representation of myself and finding a place where I belonged to have captivated my imagination all through these years, and I think my choice of geography and location follow the same passion.” she says.

Mimi, in this beautiful old house where you live and work in the north of Tehran every little corner breathes your creative energy, everywhere and everything is art.

Looking back at my childhood, I realize that we were trained by our parents to be ‘the best’ and as ‘successful’ ones who would ‘acquire’ things, and that was perhaps the initial steps into our fall. Yet, the wave-like periods of my life were always defined by the weight of ‘losing’ things and learning to lift up and fly.

The passion to find a proper representation of myself and finding a place where I belonged to have captivated my imagination all through these years.

This is the reason why I have stayed in my current studio in the northern part of Tehran, within walking distance of the mountain slopes. It is closely related to the same sense.

The sense of balance between nature, space, body and mind… How much does your artistic practice nourish this constant spiritual search for harmony?

My attitude and approach towards materiality in my pieces, have been derivative of how I looked at the world. I have been in pursuit of a ‘designed’ lifestyle, one that gradually emerges by moving consistently, to generate meaningful improvements in my life, and to reach outputs that would be in harmony with my life.

And always solitary in this quest of harmony?

I am a painter. In my artistic practice, since the very beginning, I have been focusing on understanding myself and self-portraiture, and of course, self-study.

Layer after layer, and time after time, ‘making’ myself has become the subject of my work.

My paintings moved forward without prior drafts and sketches, each creating their own independent world, and leading to an evolutionary chain.

In this evolutionary chain, what will be your next creative exploration? 

In recent years, both my mind and life went through several changes and so I needed a new structure, often leading to fresher approaches for the development of appearance and meaning in my paintings. That was how I became more interested in making them three-dimensional and more dependent on the space —with the space working as a kind of medium of delivery.
So, yes, I’d like to practice seeing in 360-degrees and transforming two dimensions to three and vice versa.

My dream is to work on a film project, like a cinematic experience playing in an atmospheric, a kind of a “nontime bound” dimension.

How does this “nontime bound” instant look like?

Pause, and… (a smile), when she reached her chosen shelter, she was relieved, hid her new beak into her wings… moves her feathers… turned around… rid herself of her old feathers… aligned her feet, looked around and sat down… her eyes fixated on a point and turned into a gaze. She gazes!

This interview has been recorded during lockdown in Iran in February 2021.
Photos : Selfportraits by Mimi Amini at her studio in Tehran
Text: Ashkan Zahraei / Anahita Vessier
Maryam “Mimi” Amini’s website

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Contemporary art in Iran

Contemporary art in Iran

We’re in Tadjrish, in the very hype northern part of Tehran where the chic people of the city meet.

After getting out of the car, I need to stop for a second and enjoy just one more time the view that I love the most of Tehran, the snow-covered Elburz Mountains watching over the city imperturbably. I enter this old building from the 30s and even though it’s quite run down it reveals still at certain spots its beauty from the past. A slight breeze of nostalgia is blowing through the staircase. While walking up the stairs, the sound of electronic music brings my attention back to the present and guides me to the studio of the artist Mimi Maryam Amini.

Everything here is art, Ready Made or her own creation, from the fridge to the armchair in the living room and the large panels of colored leather lying everywhere recovered with graffitis in fluorescent colours. I’m struck by this creative energy, it’s fresh, dynamic, experimental, spontaneous, almost quite punk. I can see these young people, in their coolest hipster outfits, art lovers, designers, curators, all around this apartment discussing intensely, and there is Mimi, the artist with these sparkling eyes and smile,  standing in front of her artwork and swaying to the music. For one moment I forget that I’m in Tehran until my gaze falls on Khomeini’s portray outside the window on the house wall just opposite of Mimi’s studio. I pinch myself. I realize that I’m in the capital of the Islamic Republic of Iran…

It’s January and I’m in Tehran to participate at Teer Art Week, organized by Hormoz Hematian, founder of the influential Dastan gallery, and by Maryam Majd of Assar Art Gallery. Dedicated to contemporary Iranian art this event takes place at the same time as the Tehran Auction that breaks all the records in the last years in Iran even though the country’s economy is squeezed by the US sanctions.

Teer Art Week is an extraordinary and unique art experience among international art events: It’s a great invitation to discover galleries in Tehran and meet Iranian artists at their studio.
It focuses on this unknown art scene that I’d like to bring to light. 

Since the Trump administration hit Iran with sanctions in May 2018, the Iranian currency has lost 60% of its value, and inflation reaches almost 35%. The country is economically and politically isolated, all the exchange offices are closed. However in this difficult context art becomes and investment of the rich of this country. But mainly established artist benefit from this evolution, most of them are even already dead.

Young artists, for their part, are rather victims of this political and economical situation: Extremely increasing prices concern also their work tools such as paint, canvas, painting brushes, paper, film rolls and the development of photos, etc. that are mainly imported from abroad. In addition to that rising housing prices force them to live at their parents’ house or leave the city.

“The Iranian art scenes, from the most confidential artist to the more mainstream, is extremely interesting and exciting and breaks all the rules and boundaries.”

Jean Marc Decrop
Expert in contemporary Chinese art and collector of contemporary Iranian art

“The contemporary art scene in Iran has extremely evolved in the past years. It’s very creative and has definitely an international level and credibility.
However, the artists are confronted with limits that they need to subvert every day. It’ll be important to reinforce the international relations in order to gain recognition and conquer new markets outside the country.
That’s the goal of Teer Art Week and the German Embassy likes to support this project.”

Justus M. Kemper
Head of Cultural Section at the German Embassy in Tehran

“I believe that one day Iran will be the center of Art in the Middle East, but currently the contemporary art scene here is like the rest of Iran, a mixture of many narratives. Even though a few galleries are attempting to give more attention to contemporary art, happenings and events still concentrate mostly on modern art.
Fortunately there are many contemporary artists and there is a huge potential for growth in this area.
Teer Art can be very helpful, especially in educating art patrons and push collectors more towards contemporary art.”

Maryam « Mimi » Amini
Contemporary female artist who lives and works in Tehran

“As the number of galleries has increased a lot in the last years, the art scene in Iran has become more mature, more divers, with more interest from top international collectors as well as top institutions. This confirms that the contemporary art scene in Iran will be the next scene to keep an eye on.”

Arian Etebarian
Founder of the platform of Iranian art www.darz.ir

Photos by Anahita Vessier and Roxana Fazeli
Text: Anahita Vessier and Nada Rihani Teissier du Cros
Translation: Anahita Vessier

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SEPAND DANESH, Art is a corner of creation

SEPAND DANESH, Art is a corner of creation

Persisting, almost obsessive, eager for knowledge and attached to the art of painting the French-Iranian artist Sepand Danesh nourishes his artistic mind with literature and history. Fascinated by the corner, this hollow space often filled with melancholy and nostalgia, has become the main theme in his work.

With an intense desire to understand and to discover and inspired by the hyper-connected space of a hub, he has launched his latest project Hubtopia, a research program with the goal to create a bridge between art and science.

The creative universe of Sépànd Danesh is rich and lively where imagination and memory merge perfectly well.

You have a very eventful life, moving from Iran to the US and then to France. What was the reason why you’ve started to draw?

I was around 13 years old when I moved to France with my family. I didn’t speak any French, so I’ve started to draw. My art teacher noticed my talent and supported me. Drawing became an opportunity to advance in life, and so I decided to go to art school.

And you have managed to enter the Beaux Arts in Paris which is one of the most prestigious art schools in the world. How was it to be an art student there ?

After studying product design at the ENSAAMA Olivier de Serres in Paris, I was really lucky to get a scholarship to this prestigious art school and to have teachers such as Giuseppe Penne or Philippe Cognée. The entire ambiance, being far from the Parisian microcosm, the huge and exceptional library, being close to Louvre Museum, Musée d’Orsay and Centre Pompidou allowed me to concentrate on my studies and to discover my passion for art during those five years of study.

Looking at your work, it reminds me of Emile Zola words « Art is a corner of creation seen through a temperament ». Does this correspond to your work where corners are the main subject ?

Marcel Proust once said,

“A painting is like the appearance of a corner of a mysterious world. We know fragments of this world by looking at other paintings of the same artist. You can also have this kind of sensation when you’re talking to people in a salon, and all of a sudden you look up and your eyes are drawn to a painting that you don’t know but that evokes something so familiar in you, like a memory from the past.”

You’re by the way a huge fan of Marcel Proust and you observe for a very long time almost obsessively the way people express their thoughts. The encyclopedia of imagination, a special grid system that needs to be filled with drawings, has been the result of your observation, which allows you to break language barriers and apprehend the world without using any words.

I’ve often felt stuck, stuck in a culture, in a language, in a country, in a relationship, in a thought, in a body, on a planet.

The only solution that I’ve found to get out of this, is to change immediately my way of thinking, to switch quickly from one thought to another, to renew and update the flow of ideas that are going through my mind.

When I was younger, I had this constant urge to escape. This has pushed me to invent this grid system in order distract myself constantly from my thoughts. But I wanted to find the perfect grid and so my research has been divided into three concepts: domestication, connection and dispersion.

That’s how I started to paint corners. I wanted to draw attention to this vertical and hollow space, without neither a floor nor a ceiling, that blocks you and obliges you to escape.

The question of how to get away from the human condition keeps being the center of my obsession.

You’ve pushed this almost obsessive observation of the corner, or as we call it nowadays « of the hub »,  even further by creating « Hubtopia », a multi-disciplinary platform inviting people of very different professional backgrounds in order to show in a more scientific way the different perspectives of a hub.
Could you define a little bit more your concept of « Hubtopia »? 

Hubtopia is a neologism that I’ve invented by connecting the word « hub » (the effective center of an activity, region or network) and « topos » the classical greek word for space or a method for developing arguments.

Hubtopia is a research program split into three platforms: web (www.hubtopia.org), events and publishing always based on the studies of the « hub ».

You organize a lot of conferences around Hubtopia and educational workshops which creates an interesting access to your creative universe.
Is it important for you that your art is easily accessible?

Schools, hospitals and prisons are places where people feel stuck more than anywhere else. I felt the urge to share this feeling of being blocked with other people. That’s why I have organized these art workshops where I give other people (around 900 people until now) the opportunity to draw by using my grid system.

Art has always helped me and still helps me to break out of my human condition. Why not creating this easy access to my art if it can  have the same positive impact on other people.

I’ve been also contacted by a stage director to transform my workshops into performances. To be continued…

You’re playing the oud, the arbic lute. Is music another loophole in your constant urge to break-out? 

If I was on an isolated island in the middle of the ocean, music would be like the parrots in Chateaubriand’s book « Memoirs From Beyond the Tomb ». In this novel they continue repeating the dead language of the aborigines who have been exterminated by the invaders.

You’re work is regularly shown in Tehran at the Dastan Gallery. What’s your opinion about the contemporary art scene and the young artists in Iran today ? 

Virginia Woolf once said,

“The big achievements among women novelists came with a change of attitude. They’re not angry any more, no claiming, no recrimination in their writing any more. We get closer, or have even already arrived, to the point where female authors aren’t affected or influenced anymore  by exterior elements. They can entirely concentrate on their vision without being diverted from their goal. That’s why today the work of women novelists is so much more authentic and interesting than hundred or even fifty years ago.”

I think that the Iranian art scene, in and outside of Iran, is waiting for a big change. But changes can only be achieved when you look for it. This means also breaking out of traditionalism and avoiding fantasizing about the West.

Is there a quote that guides you through life ? 

My father often used to repeat Berthold Brecht’s words,

“We often talk about the violence of the rivers that carries away everything, but we never talk about the violence on the riverbanks.”

Portrait by Anahita Vessier
All other images by Sepand Danesh
Text: Anahita Vessier
Translation: Anahita Vessier

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SARAÏ DELFENDAHL, Chimaerae mirabiles

SARAÏ DELFENDAHL, Chimaerae mirabiles

For Saraï Delfendahl there is no difference between animal, human, plant and matter. Living in harmony with nature and art, she creates, shapes, and paints with her agile hands wondrous mythical creatures between animals and humans made of ceramic. Intoxicated by this creative energy, she could work on her creations day and night and likes to compare herself to a “cement mixer” who continuously mixes influences, memories, obsessions and ideas.

Your imaginary creatures seem to come out of dreams, nightmares… What are you dreaming of right now?

For me, there is no difference between dreaming, daydreaming and everyday life. There is also no fundamental difference between animal, human, plant, material and symbolic. My creatures seem quite “normal” to me.

So where does this very deep connection in you between humans, animals and plants come from?

What I’ve experienced as a child with my parents, undoubtedly has a big impact on my work. Indeed, my father was an ethnologist and he often took us to the Musée de l’Homme in Paris where I was impressed by the art of different civilizations. In these cultures the links are very close between humans, animals, plants, and finally the universe …

Talking about art from other civilizations, your work is often compared with art brut.

Art brut is a term that seems to me to be able to define my work.

I am also fascinated by the works of these self-taught women and men, but it seems more correct to speak of singular art…

My way of working is indeed quite “singular” and I do not subscribe to any artistic movement.

By observing you working, you can literally feel this strong need for manual work.

My mother, who was an artist, took me to a lot of exhibitions. I only went to school from fifth grade on. My mother used the Montessori Method to teach me to read and write, and every day I drew and made up stories. I was also initiated by her into the richness of nature and all kinds of manual activities. She read us stories from all over the world. I still remember and reread the Catalan tales collected by Joan Amades, in particular the one entitled The Daughter of the Sun and the Moon.

My parents were intellectual but also very manual: at home everyone worked all kinds of materials, we wove, we did mechanics, electricity, carpentry, masonry, weaving, pottery, vegetable dyes, gardening …

This manual work, the gesture, the material, are essential elements for an artist. Brancusi said “It is by carving stone that you discover the spirit of matter, your own measure. The hand thinks and unites thought with matter. … ”
How do you feel when you start creating, facing matter, facing the unknown?

When I am facing matter, I do not feel that I am facing the unknown. I am with matter, I feel in harmony with it, I experience great strength and great joy in this metamorphosis of matter.

I rarely have a preconceived idea of ​​what I’m going to do and if I have one, I happen to do something quite different … I am actually often surprised by what I have just done. Creation is a jubilation, I feel a lot of energy in me when I am in my studio and I find it difficult to stop: I could work day and night.

Francis Bacon used to compare himself to a “concrete mixer” that mixes all kinds of influences, memories, etc. This term suits me.

There is also this very maternal, very protective gesture that you can often see in your work. Is being a mother a source of inspiration for you?

I am the mother of three children and it has taken a big place in my life: I loved carrying them in my arms, taking care of them and I have always really liked the representations of mothers and children, especially in the paintings of the old Italian masters. I like the idea of ​​hugging, protecting. I want to protect a lot of people in the world: children but also animals, plants, etc.
When my kids were little, I didn’t have much time to work in a studio. Thanks to them, I therefore created the “Notebooks of my fantastic daily life” in which they appear a lot: they are collections of paintings and writing. These notebooks have been filling my need for creation for a few years.

And when you’re not in your studio, with your hands full of clay?

When I’m not in my studio, I have a lot of other passions, one is cooking. I love food and I cook since I was very small. When preparing dishes, I feel a bit like in my studio facing a sculpture.

Photos : Iza-Menni Laaberki
Text: Anahita Vessier
Saraï Delfendahl Instagram

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