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Samira Alikhanzadeh

The Painter Painted No More

Samira Alikhanzadeh’s ‘The Unforgottens’ in few clauses and NBs

First Clause – In reading of a work of art, media is as important as form and idea, and its choice should be based on theoretical principles. Samira Alikhanzadeh studied painting with Aydin Aghdashloo and at Azad University to become a painter, but after her first solo painting exhibition she never held another exhibition solely of paintings. In quest to discover medias of her time and to re-read the traditional medias, Samira became engaged with a blend of painting, print and mirror-work, a choice not by experience nor curiosity.

Second Clause – Samira’s morale in search for identity compelled her to engage in discovering a new interpretation of the Iranian lifestyle through photographs of the 1950s.  This decade in Iran’s contemporary history is distinguishable because after the Second World War and Iran becoming industrialised, it began to define and introduce a new personality and Iranian identity. By using the photographs of this decade, Samira is in quest to decode signs of this new identity and the desire for recording it; an identity that led to new challenges such as the redefinition of socio-gendered positionalities. The print technology gives Samira the ability for a direct transfer of photographs. In her previous series, she creates time improbability and the ghost-like quality of the photographed personages by blurring the portraits or by turning them into negatives in her mise-en-scènes, but in The Unforgottens, the suspension of the screens and the instalment of separate layers in frames resonates this phantomesque quality.

NB 1- Take a look at the military costume of the bride in the wedding photograph, the horse-rider women and ladies in men’s clothing in Samira’s older works.

Third Clause – In the iconography of Samira’s works, unlike their decorative appearances, mirrors are used as a dynamic and appropriate media in order to fulfil the artist’s idea. Mirror is a device for self-recognition, self-creation or even self-destruction.  These reflections in her works, situates the audience in an interactive position and reflects the present moment against a lived and old image.  In a Lacanian sense, a person interacting with the work, experiences a mirror stage situation within a sort of collective history.

NB 2 – take a look at the paintings and mirror installations of Michelangelo Pistoletto.

Fourth Clause – Samira’s installations especially the ones in this series consist of objects that their nostalgic characteristics bold the essence of memory and affinity to the past.   Suitcases and boxes previously consisted of objects mesmerising private lives and had merits beyond capitalistic values. These boxes were usually filled with cashmere and fabrics, photo albums, photographs, letters and certificates. This time, Samira has placed a portrait as a sign of absence inside a suitcase. The dress and the portrait printed on it, or the figure standing on a metal mash with the fabric hanging behind it are yet another nostalgic expression in the process of her search for identity. 

NB 3 – Pay attention to the third sequence of the movie ‘Notorious‘ directed by Shahpour Gharib in 1971 or the Criminal Life of Archibaldo de la Cruz by Luis Buñuel made in 1955.

Ali Bakhtiari – Tehran