“Identity comes from the artist’s whole story,” Shahram Karimi, one of Iran’s most exciting and enigmatic painters, says as he reflects on his new exhibition, Pink Dreams in a Land With no Name, opening 11 September at Elga Wimmer in New York with the painter Sara Madandar. Inspired by Persian stories and nature, people and flowers of his native Shiraz, Karimi, who moonlights as celebrated Iranian filmmaker Shirin Neshat’s longstanding production designer, brings the moody cinematic aesthetic he and Neshat have spent years co-creating to his new work.
In one video painting, “Red Poppy,” Karimi’s interest in telling the “whole story” comes alive when he projects onto canvas animated poppy flowers blowing in the wind. Sketched in the background of the painting, a group of motionless figures looks on. In The Garden Is My Skin, the restless painter becomes a poet. A faceless woman is seen holding a picture of her son, abandoning her identity to her child, as the Sufi myth says mothers always do. Hidden in the painting are Karimi’s words in Farsi “I was looking for you. I didn’t find you. But still my mouth, I kissed your hand.”
Shahram Karimi. The Garden is my Skin. 2019. Mixed Media on Canvas. 70x56 inch
Courtesy of the artist
Karimi, whose fragments of colors, memories, and motion were also on display this summer in his solo show I Left Myself Somewhere at Etemad Gallery in Tehran, shows what a life in film and in transit between Iran, Cologne, and New York, past and present looks like. Inspired by traditional Persian miniatures and flowered patterns on Persian carpets, he paints a joyous whirlwind of color and memory, slowly traveling through the depths of the psyche and time lived on three continents.
Sara Madandar’s acrylic paintings on fabric and recycled newspapers, burned and etched with a laser cutter, also tell a story of memory rearranged in pieces. Madandar, who grew up in Iran but is now based in New Orleans, plays with colour, textile, and the adorned body, depicting two collaged figures standing opposite one another, one outlined, the other wrapped in fabric, in Red Line. In Through Roots, the canvas is laser cut and stitched back together as the artist’s life has been. In Pink Pray, a cluster of bodies and textiles are so closely imbricated that it is impossible to tell what is natural from handmade, a work that demands the viewer follow each thread while refusing to unspool a linear narrative. Like Karimi who says, “Where I am is my nation”, Madandar repairs tears of her past to recreate the fabric of her life in a land of her own making, with no name or location but her own.
Seen together, Karimi and Madandar’s new works, who New York-based curator Roya Khadjavi brings together in this dreamlike duet are unlike any other that can be seen in New York; Pink Dreams in a Land With no Name is not to be missed.
The exhibition runs until 24 September.