Engaged art raises awareness, brings a hidden reality to light, and then snatches it from oblivion to make it part of the collective memory: this is the vision of artist Sayeh Sarfaraz. Her drawings will be presented in her latest exhibition, Génération Sacrifiée (sacrificed generation), at grunt Gallery in Vancouver.
Sarfaraz was born in Shiraz, Iran, and studied there befor attending l’École Supérieure Des Arts Décoratifs de Strasbourg in France. She is currently based in Montreal, Quebec. She began her artistic work by focusing on women in the Iranian Muslim society under the Islamic regime.
A committed artist
Sarfaraz’s creative world draws its inspiration from the political events that relate to her home country’s government. The constant anxiety of conflict, censorship and the repression of the people of Iran is expressed through the childlike language of a plastic toy collection and drawings.
“Leaving Iran gave me a real personal development, a sense of independence. The frontal encounter with different cultures has given me another perspective on others and myself, and a strong bond with my country, my past and my culture,” she says.
Relating directly to her wandering and exile, the figurines, haphazardly staged in childlike patterns, experience dramatic situations such as violent struggles, bombardments and imprisonment. This distortion between play and politics highlights the injustice of manipulating the weak, the gulf between great powers and a people’s struggle for freedom.
“Conflicts are fought in part around the globe with the help of classic media and social media and its worldwide impact,” adds Sarfaraz.
Art and politics
“Persian miniatures are a very important part of my work. It is a great way to celebrate the rich, strong and ancient Persian culture and express it in a contemporary way with modern references,” says Sarfaraz.
She uses bright and solid colours not only as a reference to Persian miniature paintings but also to highlight strong social and cultural references in people’s minds.
“The same colours sometimes have opposite meaning depending on the culture,” explains Sarfaraz.
Part of her artistic approach is to translate Iranian political events with toys, which serve as a reference to youth and a collective fantasy world.
Through her work, Sarfaraz attempts to de-traumatize very difficult and serious situations. By making them fun to watch, she gets viewers’ attention and permits them to reflect. She also intends to ridicule the dictators by reappropriating their symbols of power, which they use to empower themselves in front of others, and presenting them for what they really are – a big show, according to Sarfaraz.
It’s action that counts
Globalization is another element of reference implicit in the artist’s work. Sarfaraz uses Lego, for example, because of its power to reach worldwide collective memory.
“Alone or without any reaction from its counterpart, a social uprising has no meaning or interest,” she says. “The action from one and the reaction from another that goes back and forth creates a movement.”
For Sarfaraz, globalization helps to enrich her work because of the many interactions between people that are a result of new technologies.
“Those interactions between different groups of people around the world and the ways in which a situation evolves become more and more interesting because every year it [technology] gets faster and more powerful. It defines our times in some ways,” says Sarfaraz.
From Oct. 22 until Nov. 28 at grunt Gallery. For more information, please visit www.grunt.ca.