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November Art Scene in Tehran

By Syma Sayyah, Tehran


Banafsheh means Violet in Persian, which is delicate, colorful and small. Iranians plant them in their gardens in March for the Iranian New Year to add color to their celebration for Norouz.


Banafsheh is also the name of an Art Gallery in Tehran, at the corner of Shiraz and Molla-Sarda avenues in a little side street Bahar (spring) alley.  I went there last week as a classmate asked me to drop by and see the exhibition by a group of women whose works were mainly graphic print and watercolors. The gallery itself is a lovely, bright and spacious place; it is not small by Tehran private gallery standards. The place is managed by a lovely lady who herself is a painter, like many others.  When I went inside, there was a sense of peace about the place, a mature tranquility nevertheless young and newly found. I did ask permission in to take some pictures that you may observe below. I am not proud of them this time; I must learn to use my new digital camera so that I can present better pictures for you.



The works were interesting from various points of view. A couple of the artists were exceptionally good. A couple of them were quite promising artists to be. The former group seems to have found the confidence to work from within, and the latter one I could feel are getting there. Each artist had 3-10 works presented there. In all they were 15 women who took part. Most of the paint-works were in watercolors.  I think the exuberant price of paint has something to do with the fact that many non-professional artists tend to go for watercolor rather than oil. The price of the works varied. Some were very reasonable and some seemed too much for such kind of work. Here is a short summery of some of the works that took my attention.


Sayeh Mohtashami uses Persian imaginary figures to present her work. There is great promise and potential in her work. I would be most interested to see her work in couple of years time. Nevertheless, works need more attention and serious patience in order to make them artier than symbol of protestation, by taking refuge in the past.



Elahe Raees-Dana's works speak of an opening and a break away, a gentle detachment from tangles. The graphic works, the sitting mermaid(s), which reminded me terribly of the famous mermaid in Copenhagen harbor, and her three women, and her colorful Rooster(s), all were smooth, genteelly colorful and peaceful. The exception may be the mermaid(s) series, which has not left the troubled shores of the past completely yet. Although they were not original, I felt that the feel about them was original.



Nahid  Zameni's works, which I title "Women-get-together," reminded me of the time when aunties or colleagues-friends met for an afternoon and have so much to say and exchange. With little time, so much is always said at the door, as they could not bring themselves to take their leave and get back to whatever and wherever they had. Her work was full of part time stories. Neither too happy nor sad, mixes of both actually, like life itself. Her images were quite alive and telling. Still, somehow I found that her characters were devoid of some vital life vitamin. The works were good and strong.



I found Susan Mobasher's work rather deeply troubling. The dark browns and strikes of red spoke of hard time and uneasy present.


Parvaneh Namvar's mostly self-caricature self-portrait, spoke of a very serious young woman with great future if she carries on working hard. I found them most telling, a soft soul hidden behind a serious fašade, determined. A woman who does not have time to be silly and spends much time to have fun. I wanted to buy one of her works for a friend's birthday.


Ghazaeh Akhavan's B&W print images reminded me of Tahmineh Millani's film the Two Women. I saw this the moment I set my eyes on them. Her works were good and it seems that she is in control, just like Ms. Millani.


Azadeh Etebarian's works were most daring and original of the whole lot of them. I was deeply touched by her ability to express herself. This she did without compromising; she did what she wanted. The works presented dawn of a new era for me. Female artists, specially the younger generation, are beginning to come out of their social and self-imposed shell of constrains. They dare to be and express themselves. They present the inner world of their lives for what it is. I have no doubt that this exhibition would not be allowed even a couple of years ago, or even today if it was to take place in a more well-known place.



I went to Banafsheh gallery not expecting such. I was pleasantly surprised. What was new in this exhibition by this group of 20 to 60-year-old women was the dare to break away and be themselves. Collectively, yet independently, they have reached the point that has led them to stop the "compromise" they all made in the past. Slowly yet surely they are breaking away from such constrain and limitation that they or society has set for them. They have stopped covering up and being shy.  One can see this gentle yet powerful and strong movement in all aspects of women lives in Iran that is most wonderful. It may not bear fruit in my lifetime, but what is one segment of one generation if the nation will be saved.


The works that these others artists are doing will find a new audience that was in waiting in the large avenue of life.


Good luck to these artists and good luck to all the hard-working uncompromising Iranian women at large.


THE OTHER ARTISTS WERE: Pari Raghebian, Zari AMini, Simin Akhavan, Sousan Mobasher, Shirin Doroudian, Forouzan Parviz-Farzam, Maryam Karimian, Farzaneh Akhavan and  Marjan Seyedain



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