Artist Talk: Soheila Sokhanvari

Soheila Sokhanvari originally took a biochemistry degree, finding that this was not the route that she wanted to take. Her path took her through to a BA and MA at Goldsmiths. A quote that she felt like resonated with her work and mindset was;

“To understand me, You’ll have to swallow the world”
– Salman Rushie, Midnight Children

Sokhanvari’s works looks at collective trauma and amnesia, the shock of a country as well as the symbolic residue that is left from these. Researching this, it often turns into stories and mythology. She feels like the mythology is linked to her own past of being an Iranian exile, beginning her interest in others who have been exiled and are showing it through their art.

There was a challenge of governmental control and security, which Sokhanvari explored through airlines. This started when looking at the 1953 Iranian coup and the oil money, resulting in a nation going through trauma. She took 500ml of crude oil through an airport and on a flight from Iran. From this, she created drawings from family photographs and photographs in media at that time. The message was in the materiality of the medium, presented in a purple room to present the monarchy. The crude oil paintings asks how a drawing can represent the memory.

The abstractions through egg tempera paintings and fibreglass sculptures look at self portraits, and where the negative space is in the family photographs of where she is supposed to be. A representation of the lack of her presence because she is a political exile. There is also no perspective with the composition with no shadowing or particular layering, creating very flat pieces. Colour was the pop in these pieces, as well as working with 24K gold. The pigments came from Venice, creating a connection with the masters of painting. Vellum that is used in her work comes from calf skin, and finds that it is the symbolism of the sacrifice of self.

Sokhanvari’s ongoing project is that of passports, which she mentioned that she will collect for as long as she can. The passport is an alternative portrait as it has context within your current nationality. She swapped stamps with UK and US advertising slogans. The passports are then visible from both sides as a transportable world.

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