The idea for an artwork usually comes in a single burst. Then a little sketch emerges. As days go by, my mind returns to it again and again until the image is finalised. If it's a straight-forward lino-cut, I then draw the image on the lino in pencil, cut it out and hand-print it on Inbe Japanese paper. When combining linos with photographs, I often find that I have already taken a photo which works well with the idea. Sometimes the idea comes from one of my photos. If not, I take photos until I have one which I'm happy with. I then scan that onto Zercall paper and hand-print the lino image on top. I collect vintage photos, old advertisements, pieces of paper with interesting colours or patterns or fabric, which I use for my collages. After cutting, I glue these on top of linos which are hand-printed on recycled Sri Lankan paper or Japanese Inbe. My etchings and photo-etchings are printed on to Sommerset paper using a press. I mainly use Charbonnel or intaglio inks.
It Happened To be a Monkey(2014-2015)
read me a poem(2008)
my sister's hand in mine(2006)
It started with a craving. A craving for something I couldn't have, my past. At first it came in isolated droplets, an old photo tucked into a forgotten book, an unevenly folded letter, a dream. Then it began to leave its mark in my writing and my prints. Going back to Iran after 25 years of absence, turned the droplets into a shower still soaking me.
What is nostalgia? How do you explain feeling nostalgic? An earring, a shade of colour, the fall of a curtain, a badly cut suit, and unfashionable word, the past can show itself in anything. We have an expression in Persian for missing something which translates loosely as "my heart has shrunken for it". I created this series to stretch my heart.
once a traveller, always a traveller(2012)
bangkok in gold(2008)
conference of the birds(2007)
one night in cairo(2006)
We all travel. Life is on the move. Places hurry by as landscapes from the windows of fast-moving trains. Sometimes we trace our journeys on maps. What are we searching for and where are we going?
The Conference of the Birds is a masterpiece of the Persian Sufi poet Farid Al-din Attar (1142 - 1221). It tells the story of a large group of birds (human souls) which, under the leadership of a Hoopoe (spiritual master), undertake a long journey in search of the legendary Simorgh bird (divine truth/god/beloved). Many of the birds perish as they confront their own limitations and fears while journeying through seven valleys before they ultimately find the Simorgh in the form of their own reflections in the water. The last thirty survivors realised that what they were searching for was inside them all along.
We are all part of the beloved and the beloved is part of us. As I continue my search for the past, for all that is lost and for impossible desires, I know that they are all within me and I need the mirror of truth to reflect them and free me. First I need to undertake the journey of finding the mirror, either from a moving train or in my heart.
persian speaking objects
freedom speaking objects(2011)
As a child, I saw life in many lifeless objects. I imagined a garment desperate to be worn so that it could go out, or a cassette desperate to be played so that it could sing out loud. As the fan purred in the heat of summer afternoons while everyone else was napping, I would stay awake and listen to it expressing itself together with all the other objects in the room. I would imagine the telephone shouting: "Ring me!", the radio begging: "Play me!" and the camera calling out: "Come on, give us a smile!" The crazy thing is I still hear them speak to me and its always in Farsi (Persian).
poems & poets
separation & unity(2009)
the seasons of love talisman(2008)
How do we fall in love? What is it that we want? Are we successful? Are we healthy? Can a piece of paper folded seven times help? Or a small bronze disc with abstract patterns etched by hand? Talismans come in many forms. Repeat a word over and over and sense it take the shape of something more powerful. Put a copper disc with a drawing of a naked couple under the pillow of your lover and see the change, make a baby, stay happy forever. Bury a prayer in the garden of your enemy and see them fall. Blow over the heads of travellers and make their journey safe.
For centuries talismans have played a part in many different societies all over the world. The lucky pen or interview suit, as well as more exotic or sinister items, embody the belief that a tangible object can do something so intangible as making someone fall in love. The power of a talisman lies in believing in it.
The relationship of the talisman lovers evolves through the seasons. The innocent, uncertain buds of spring blossom in the fierce, intertwined growing passion of summer which slows, matures and sheds its extravagances in autumn and gives way to winter when, together still but now as individuals again, they look forward to rediscovering the renewd buds of early spring.
Many years ago, in an English language school I went to after leaving Iran, I learned a new game which was especially popular with the students from the Far East. It went like this: someone would mention an animal and the rest of us had to imitate the sound that animal makes in our language. Everyone found it terribly funny that, for example, a dog goes "woof" in English, but "vaag" in Persian. After all a dog is a dog, whether English, Iranian or Japanese. I learned with time that it was not that we looked different, or our animals sounded different, or our views were different, but that the real difference was how we viewed the world and each other, and that comes from deep within. How can we look inside and when we do, what do we see? I have recently been relearning a lot about my culture, or I should say, one of my cultures, as I identify with several. I refer now to Persian culture. We all know about the poetry, the great history and the unfortunate political events, but what about the essence, the real pestle and mortar of a society, which in my opinion is its humour? It's very Persian to use language in many different ways, and so create humour. For example, in Iran we grew up exchanging all sorts of expressions from an early age. Someone would use one expression, we would laugh, shrug our shoulders and would use another one in reply. We would converse in this way, or as we say in Farsi, "we said flower, we heard flower". I have relearned forgotten expressions along with many new ones. And then some became an image, an idea in my head. There were a few crazy ones and a couple of problematic ones, but I went along with the joy ride and it was fun. The result is my series, but nothing really means anything, until you give it life.
mix & match
an odd match(2008)
made in heaven I & II(2008)
"is it love or a mismatch?"(2007)
love match I (2006), love match II (2008)
During my childhood it seemed a lot of people got married. Practically no Thursday evening was complete without following the heavily made-up women and freshly shaved men of our huge family to yet another wedding. As I grew up, my focus shifted from collecting the coins and sweets around the bride to imagining myself in her place. All the teenage girls would study the brides every move, so that it could be praised and copied or criticised and avoided. We all got older and it seems we all wore the white veil and walked through the shower of shiny coins and sugary sweets. All except Gohar. As she followed her employers for one wedding to another, serving tea and helping with the esphands and last minute food preparations, I wondered whats she thought about. Did she ever ask herself, "Why not me?". Did she ever envy yet another bride walking towards a future she sensed would never be hers? If she did, she never talked about it. She followed us dutifully to each marriage celebration, always quick to help someone else's big night go well. Years went by and Gohar died having never worn the white dress. So here, years later, I have made her a bride. The portrait, along with the dried rose of her bouquet, can now live on and perhaps people will in future believe that Gohar did also wear the veil and walk through the showers of coins and sweets to a different future.
Match boxes are misunderstood. They are thought old fashioned these days and have fallen into disuse. But they are very useful for storing small objects and can have a surprise element. You might open one and find inside only burnt matches, or a child’s tooth, or a bunch of hairpins. I also like the word MATCH. It has so many meanings. I want people to play around and have fun with my match boxes. I want them to match people up according to how they look, what they say, or both. Will it be a love match or a mismatch?
commissions & collaborations
flight of the falcons(2013)
New York Times(2010)
One of my short stories is published in the Reorient Magazine August 2014
In the early 2014 I joined the Al Mutanabbi Street project and produced a piece in response to a bombing that destroyed the heart of the literary district of Bagdad in 2008.
In the Spring of 2013 I was approached by the British museum to produce a piece for the exhibition of WISE MEN FROM THE EAST. This is the description of my work which was on display for 6 months in the coin department of the museum.
"The Iranian-born artist Afsoon has chosen a coin of the Sasanian king Khusrau II Parviz (AD 591–628) as the central subject of her print commissioned for this exhibition. The winged crown of the king, the birds and the sewn pearls all allude to the Kingly Glory. The cypress trees and clouds are in the style of Persian miniature paintings." - The British Museum
After a long period of planning and discussion I produced this piece for an artist/collector from the Middle east in the Autumn of 2012.
During the Summer of 2010 I spent a few weeks in an artists colony in the city of Mosonmagyaróvár in Hungary. I worked on the theme of migration and represented myself and my place within that community as a migrating bird. The result are kept in the contemporary museum in the city.
In the Summer of 2010 I joined more than two hundred other artists to create a piece in response to the ongoing gender violence in Cuidad Juarez , Mexico and the globe.
In the winter of 2010 I was approached by the New York Times to illustrate an article for the OP ED page. The paper came out on the 5th of January 2010.