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Visual anecdotes of an artist’s life in Iran

Elham Moaidnia uses paintings on doors and windows to invite viewers to get acquainted with her country’s rich history and culture

  • The Godfather by Elham Moaidnia.Image Credit: Supplied
  • Imagination by Elham Moaidnia.Image Credit: Supplied
Gulf News

Dubai-based Iranian artist Elham Moaidnia is celebrating the recent political developments in her homeland with an exhibition titled “Come to the Party: The Doors are Now Open”.

In a symbolic reference to the lifting of sanctions imposed on Iran by the US, the artist has created paintings on antique doors and windows, inviting viewers to step inside and get acquainted with the rich history and culture of her country. By combining her contemporary paintings with reclaimed wooden doors, the artist also speaks about learning from the past to deal with current issues. The show is curated by Helen Teede.

“I like to experiment with new materials, and was excited when I was offered this collection of reclaimed doors and windows from a demolished house in Ras Al Kahimah to paint on. The symbolic reference to the doors of the Iranian market opening up is nice, but my work is not about politics. It is about social issues. I want to show them how we really are, and what private and social life in Iran is like. I want to introduce the world to our rich, ancient culture and traditions and invite everybody to step inside and experience it, now that the doors have opened,” Moaidnia says.

The centrepiece of the show is an old reclaimed water wheel, on which the artist has painted scenes from daily life and symbols such as weapons, a tiger skin and a cedar tree to speak about the agony and ecstasy of life and the struggle to keep the wheels of life turning. “The wheel is the most important invention of mankind and has contributed immensely in the development of human beings. It plays a pivotal role in my show too, with the themes I have depicted on the spokes extending out into the other works,” she says.

Moaidnia’s colourful paintings, featuring abstracted figures, imaginary creatures and everyday scenes, depict various facets of life in Iranian society. “Master Bedroom” is a metaphor for private thoughts and feelings, with words from ordinary conversations written on the door suggesting that behind the closed doors of Iran, the people are just like anybody else. On another door, she has painted various scenes from the theatre on each panel, referring to the richness of Iranian literature, poetry and art, and perhaps the political drama played out in the media. In a painting done on a reclaimed window, she has added a rooster to the traditional Iranian artistic motif of flowers and chicken (“gul-o-murgh”) to represent the changing times.

She has explored the spiritual aspect of life, depicting the mesmerising effect of the call to prayer on believers in a set of paintings on board. Another large painting depicting a feast laid out on a table speaks about the warmth and hospitality of Iranians and the culture of sharing. “Come to the Party”, from which the show gets its name, is a beautifully painted antique window frame with a mirror placed, bringing viewers into the work.

As a contemporary Iranian woman, Moaidnia has also shared her feelings about the status of women in Iran. One part of the work shows a man as a ferocious animal, holding a woman captive in a cage, while the other part features images of women discarding all inhibitions in private moments.

In another work she has painted a scene of an Iranian public bath on a screen made from the “lonj” fabric that is used to separate the male and female sections of the bath, making the medium part of the message. 

In another series of paintings on canvas, the artist has depicted the improved relationship between Iran and the US. She has connected the idea of new beginnings in this body of work with Norouz, the Iranian New Year that is celebrated in March, by placing in the gallery various elements associated with traditional New Year celebrations such as a bowl with gold fish, a coin and a flower, hand painted eggs, a mirror, and a painting done on a beautiful Iranian tablecloth from Isfahan.

Jyoti Kalsi is an arts-enthusiast based in Dubai.

“Come to the Party: The Doors are Now Open” will run at Showcase gallery until April 25.

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