Artist Shahla Hosseini’s Dubai exhibition
by Jyoti Kalsi, Gulf News
Iranian artist Shahla Hosseini’s latest exhibition, titled “Curvature of Time”, is a poignant tribute to her mother and an attempt to come to terms with a world without her. Through her mystical and meditative mixed-media collages in boxes, and paintings on fabric, the artist expresses her grief and feeling of vulnerability after the death of her mother earlier this year, and contemplates her changed perspective of the world and of life. The simple yet profound artworks invite viewers to reflect on the perennial flow of time and the delicate balance between life and death.
Many of these objects are connected with the artist’s life and her childhood memories. Her sisters are doctors and her father was an engineer, so she grew up surrounded by skeletons, bones, engineering drawings and scientific instruments. These objects are remnants of the natural process of erosion, ageing and returning to dust. But through her collages she gives them new life, incorporating them into mysterious machines and charts that perhaps map and measure the intangible layers of our existence and help create equilibrium between them.
“I see all these seemingly useless objects as words that I can put together to make meaningful sentences. The relationship and the spaces between them are part of the syntax. Making these collages is a meditative process during which I let go and allow these objects to become something else. It is a journey into the unknown and leads to surprising dialogues between these disparate elements. It is about trying to create something that has a sense of poetry and mystery and an innate beauty and balance,” the artist says.
The artist is also showcasing a series of artworks on fabric that are steeped in nostalgia. The delicate, hand-woven fabric Hosseini has used means a lot to her because she found it in her mother’s clothes chest. And the barely visible words she has written in ink on the sepia-toned fabric make each piece even more meaningful. The words include scientific references to the X and Y chromosomes in our genes; words written on her mother’s shroud; and the mundane household accounts that she found in her father’s notebooks. In some pieces the artist has stained the fabric with soil in a reference to her mother’s grave. And faintly visible among the words in all the pieces is a helical structure, resembling a DNA molecule running along the entire length of the fabric.
“This fabric belonged to my mother and is a symbol of my heritage; and these artworks are about remembering her, connecting with her and celebrating the bond we shared and still do. The mundane things such as tea and sugar that my parents bought for their household tell me so much about their daily lives, and incorporating them in my work makes me feel connected with the subtle flow and rhythm of their lives. But there is so much more beneath the surface in these artworks that cannot be expressed in words,” the artist says. Another set of artworks features strips of gauze arranged in the form of respiratory charts, symbolising the ebb and flow of life, and the infinite continuum of time.
“Curvature of Time” will run at Khak Gallery at the Courtyard until May 13.
Jyoti Kalsi is an arts enthusiast based in Dubai.