A system in transformation: Aileen Bahmanipour’s Technical Problem

Medusa, 2014. | Photos courtesy of Aileen Bahmanipour

Aileen Bahmanipour, a young visual artist with Persian origins, presents her work in the upcoming exhibition, Technical Problem, at the Vancouver grunt gallery from Sept. 8– Oct. 14.

Known for her meticulous artwork and having once made paper from human hair for an exhibition in the Banff Centre for the Arts, Bahmanipour is displaying a mixture of past and present works. The exhibition will show a slight artistic transformation between works that were made while the artist lived in Iran and paintings from the time after her immigration to Canada in 2014.

Bahmanipour’s immigration to Canada had a transformative influence on her work.

“I changed the ground of my works as soon as my ground changed. Instead of working with paper, I started working with transparent material like acetate and used it as a democrat surface that shows everything,” she says.

Inspired by her motherland, Iran, which is known in the West for its strict regime, she weaves Persian elements into her work and presents them in a way that subtly shows her criticism on the political


Sucking my tears, 2014. | Photos courtesy of Aileen Bahmanipour

The name of her grunt gallery exhibition, Technical Problem, refers to an error that can happen to the function of a system or ideology.

“The workings of systems and ideologies are the red thread of my work. A system or ideology tries to force things in a specific order, and I think this framing is a problem. Things and people have to fit that order or they get repressed or forced to change in order to fit the order of the system,” says Bahmanipour, who started to burn, fold and force the materials that she worked with, to see what it could not tolerate, to make the created system collapse. “My immigration made me daring enough to do all this with my work. It was a difficult period, but my acceptance at the Master of Fine Arts program at UBC really helped me to establish myself as an artist.”

Her older works have many references to medical cross-sections in which pictures of bodies are illustrated in their maximum visibility. For example, if an animal is illustrated, you see its inside and outside body at the same time. Bahmanipour plays with that style as well and applies it in her illustrations as a way to cut through the skin of reality to see the truth of a mechanical system.

“My dad was a Persian literature teacher and my mom worked in a medical lab. After school, I would go to my mom and see all the microscopes and blood samples. I was always amazed by it and now I use them in my paintings to see through a system. I cut the façade and penetrate into it,” she says.

Persian myths

The grunt exhibition will also display some of Bahmanipour’s older paintings that are based on a famous Persian literary story from the Book of Kings written by Ferdowsi, which tells about a king who kisses the devil and as a result grows two snakes from his shoulders. According to the legend, the devil transforms into the body of a doctor and prescribes the king to behead the youth of Iran and feed their brains to his snakes.

“My interpretation of this story is that ideology can threaten societies and can kill the thinking power of an entire nation. In my paintings, I created a cycle that feeds itself by its own body and that doesn’t need external input,” says Bahmanipour.

For more information, please visit www.grunt.ca.