Gohar Dashti, Today's Life and War #10, 2008
From 24 October 2013 until 24 January 2014, the Milan-based art gallery Officine dell’Immagine will host, for the first time, a retrospective of the young Iranian artist Gohar Dashti, one of the most talented representatives of Middle-Eastern contemporary art.
Already highly esteemed among the international artistic community, Gohar Dashti belongs to that generation of young Iranians who were born in a rather complex era, set between the Islamic Revolution of 1979 and the violent Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988). A tormented past intermingled with the declaration of a present, which is still set between the desire to move on, and the will to preserve cultural and religious fundamentalist Islamic traditions. These are the basis from which this promising Iranian photographer takes inspiration. The outcome is to be seen in a creative symmetry: here, the analysis of the human psyche set against the history of a strongly contradictory country, plays an essential part.
This exhibition, curated by Silvia Cirelli, is called INSIDE OUT. Its focus is a cultural path, rather than a mere artistic one, where the contradictions of contemporaneity, highly influenced by social, political and public conflicts (the Outside), invariably have a strong impact on the private, intimate lives of the Iranians (the Inside). Gohar Dashti’s art somewhat astonishes because of its sharp elegance, showing brutal sufferings alongside subtle metaphors, which can only be grasped by overcoming an apparent form of objectivity. Nothing is explicit, in fact the truth is revealed by a jigsaw of hidden parts hinting at suggestions, which up to then had been unacknowledged.
An exclusive for Italy, the Milan exhibition will show the most famous series of this artist. This selection exemplifies her distinctive features and confirms her lexical individuality. Today’s Life and War is a work dated 2008: its title already defines the difficulty of a life menaced by war on a daily basis. It represents a couple, whose private spaces are constantly threatened by violence. We see them calmly eating, while in the background a menacing tank approaches. In another shot, they are forced to hang their washing on barbed wire, while in another one they fall asleep surrounded by an intimidating military troop. Danger looms over them, and yet their expressions are never resigned, but resolute, determined to withstand.
The series Slow Decay also embodies this rigour. Here, however, a seriousness suggesting deep agony can be perceived. The stillness of the scene depicted hints at private stories, an intimate pain between space and time, where the gazes of the figures reveal secrets, perhaps too sad to be declared. Her recent series Volcano, dating 2012, abandons this severity. The artist set up a sort of Theatre of the Absurd, with the characters happily laughing and a strange creature meandering around. Initially perceived as a relaxed and joyous moment, this bizarre figure creates scepticism in the beholder, who is unsure as to what the outcome will be, either an announced catastrophe, or an innocent game. Iran, Untitled is the last series executed by Gohar Dashti, and it closes the exhibition. Its presence in Milan is an absolute exclusive. The setting once again changes and here we are on the outskirts of Tehran, a nostalgic and silent landscape surrounding us. We see small life shots, echoing the grace of the traditional Japanese haiku, renowned for being able to put down the intensity of an emotion into words.