In December 2019 and January 2020 a first solo exhibition by the Iran born artist Hadieh Afshani is on view at Crossing Art Gallery in Chelsea, the New York’s most talked about art district. Remarkable, it’s Afshani’s first solo show in New York and gallery’s first showing of an Iranian artist. Actually, not only Iranian: Hadieh Afshani considers herself an Aussie too, since she lived in Australia for ten years.
The gallery choice to exhibit Hadieh Afshani’s paintings was made in accordance with its belief that “Contemporary art can broaden dialogues among cultures and discourses and should be shared with communities not limited to certain locale or audiences.”
Sometimes Hadieh calls herself a nomadic person: she lived in three countries on three continents, and in the USA she lived in two states before moving to the New York area where she actually settled in New Jersey. Her geographical and psychological experience is reflected in her paintings. It’s not easy to find your place and settle. It’s not easy to get used to a new place, and did your new apartment and house actually become your place and home? In her creative journey, Hadieh Afshani has been researching a philosophy of ‘space versus place’ and implements her own personal experience to her paintings. In order to differentiate a place and a space, Afshani borrows the definition outlined by Yi-Fu Tuan in Space and Place (2001) — a place is the center of felt value where biological needs, such as those for food, water, rest, and procreation, are established; a space is more abstract and allows movement, whereas place is paused.
When looking at Afshani’s paintings, a view may feel like peeping through the keyhole as Afshani depicts intimate spaces such as bedrooms and apartment living rooms. This is her personal visual diary – many spaces she paints were those she lived in. She uses metaphoric and metonymic visual elements that refer to transience, including doorways, corridors, or light coming from one space to another sited within intimate places and interiors. These spacial relations depicted show the feeling of temptation to choose one path over others, taking the risk of going through a chosen path, and then again facing the possibility to change her mind. By doing so, Afshani examines the mindset and the emotional journey of her as an immigrant.
Those ones who at least once moved from one country to another, or who go places within their own country will relate to the theme of moving, living, and being – their sequence would be individual for each person.
The exhibition is happening at the time of social protests in Iran and, as a result, switching off the Internet by the Iranian government. The artist cannot communicate with her mother and two siblings who live in their home country. To beat nostalgia, together with her sister, Hadieh designed cotton shirts and scarves with embroidered motifs from her paintings. This distant collaboration without a possibility of an easy daily communication, adds so much personal touch to these one-of-a-kind garments. Not a surprise, that a few of them were purchased on the very first day of exhibition.
We met Hadieh Afshani through our first ever international art competition “Show Your World”: her painting “The Float of Hope in Transit” became a finalist and was exhibited at Gallery MC in January 2016. Since then, we have completed several projects together, including the art installation made on two continents, “The First Supper”, with the Israeli artist Shirley Siegal. Hadieh became an active participant in the RE:ARTISTE International Art Organization‘s life and co-curated two exhibitions “Transformation”, conducted a number of workshops, took part in collaborative projects with theater, “Daughters of Troy”.
Hadieh Afshani’s paintings can be viewed at the Crossing Art Gallery, 559 W 23 St., New York, NY 10011. For all inquiries please email the curator at email@example.com // Natalie Burlutskaya, curator