March 30 – April 29, 2023
West Hollywood’s Advocartsy focuses exclusively on Iranian artists. In light of the Women Life Freedom Movement, they are especially campaigning for strong, impassioned voices of female Iranian artists at this time. Foroozan Shirghani’s first U.S. solo exhibition, Alienation, is a collection that certainly fits this bill.
Born and raised in Iran, Shirghani moved to the States in 2015. Soon after, she stumbled upon a pivotal point in her painting career, from which certain bottled emotions found their release in visual form. The distinct imagery in her current series (created from 2019-2022) was inspired by the random sight of a squished plastic bottle: This was one of those existential moments that spawned an entire concept addressing both the physical and psychological being under stress.
Sketches on this symbolic concept began as anthropomorphized versions of the debris in her vision, yet, over time, the abstracted figures evolved into an identity all their own, unraveled through many oil and acrylic paintings. They are no longer human, yet still represent aspects of the human condition, and the feelings of fragmentation, loss, hope, and desire are all conveyed. Whether slumped or outstretched, defeated or inquisitive, the overarching pallet from which her subjects emerge is grey, bleak.
Desolate Existence shows one such abstracted form peering down through the opening of what was once a solid wall: On the other side, there is the ruination of an entire city, with traces of survivors sprinkled throughout barren structures. From their hazy, distant nooks, the creatures commune in fellow desolation.
Many of Shirghani’s painted forms have been modelled after physical objects which she also sculpted, exposing her multi-faceted explorations into this theme. Several installations include these numerous ceramic sculptures, as well as a stuffed fabric form suspended from the air with fallen entrails and piles of cinder blocks, emphasizing the broken property so prominent in her paintings.
Although Shirghani began these works before the recent uprisings in Iran, they inevitably echo today’s keening cry for change. The emotions expressed herein stem from a home environment whose air has remained thick with restriction for many years. In Shirghani’s landscapes, conspicuous references to Middle Eastern architecture set an apocalyptic vibe through dilapidated buildings, defaced by both real and metaphorical explosions, and characters imprisoned within toxic surroundings.
Despite all this, there is an optimism that manages to shine through, especially symbolized in The Birth of Light and In Pursuit of Light. The latter shows a succession of beings peering out from designated cells in the direction of a warm and glowing light just at the end of the tarnished corridor. In many cases, new and beautiful outcomes must first patiently await the final death throes of antiquated ideals, for the occasion that they may finally flourish. Alienation is a testament to the resilience of those enduring the traumas of socio-political ruling systems, let alone the hardships of everyday life.
Cover image: In Pursuit of Light; all images courtesy Advocartsy, photographed by the author.