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Pooneh Oshidari at Bavan Gallery

Author : Dorsa Asadi

Reading Time : 5 Minutes

Original text in Farsi by Dorsa Asadi

Translated to English by Sara Faezypour

"Homeland" is the title of Pooneh Oshidari's solo show at Bavan Gallery, held from 25 June to 12 July 2021. Before entering the show, this title evokes the artist's concern for nature and identity in her previous works, and the paintings hung on the wall at the entrance of the show attest to her approach; however, contrary to what we expect from a green and dynamic landscape, the nature represented in this collection is dry, blood-soaked, and barren. In the catalog of the show, it is stated that "Homeland" consists of three parts and was inspired by the circumstances of some regions of Iran that have been depleted of life over time due to adverse climatic conditions.

Pooneh Oshidari | Bahman and Shirin | 2021 | printed photo on fabric and dried plants on canvas | 150 × 240 × 6 cm


Upon entering the gallery, we are faced with a large collage piece, covering almost the entire wall. In the hall located on the right, several paintings are put up on the wall in an orderly manner. In this part of the exhibit, before ascending the stairs, we encounter a video installation of photos and roots. The works installed on the stairs are not large in size. As we enter the upper hall, we see images, executed with a technique and color palette different from that of the lower floor, that signify growth, maintenance, and protection. To thoroughly observe the works of this collection, we start from the lower hall and entrance of the show.



In the works of the lower hall, the artist has emphasized the aridity and barrenness of these landscapes by using large surfaces of paint and drawing on them, dry and bare trees, and intensified colors. Oshidari has often intelligently drawn an ancient edifice in the center of the frame, thus strengthening the reference to the homeland, roots, and earth. The selection of buildings drawn is also noteworthy. Zoroastrian reservoirs and Chahrtaqi (a construction consisting of four arches and a dome) are repeated in the works. The frequent presence of the reservoir in the works of this collection on sere and burnt land aggravates the anxiety of drought for the viewer, pointing out the cause of the lack of life in remote and neglected regions. In this group of works, roots made of thread have come out (collaged) from the entrance holes of the buildings and extended to the ground. Roots that are either black or red and visually and contentwise have made a positive combination with the drawn lines. These threads form a kind of umbilical cord and connection with mother earth.


Pooneh Oshidari | Siahgal Fire Temple | 2019 | monotype, ink, pencil and thread on paper | 99 × 69 cm


In one of the paintings, titled "Siahgal Fire Temple", the entrance of the fire temple carved in the heart of the mountain educes a sense of a womb. This image is completed when the audience is provoked to think about the relationship between the Zoroastrian Chahartaqi and temples with their flowing water springs.

Oshidari's empiricism, one of the most essential elements in her work, cannot be summarized here. The aforesaid large work (Bahman and Shirin | 2021) located in front of the entrance of the show, is the intersection of this artist's experimentalism with material, technique, and image. The layering and step-by-step work here is manifested in the form of a photo of a water reservoir, a bride and groom, and a surface of dried flowers that have made a motif similar to old wallpapers with a geometric order. The use of dried plants inevitably conjures the time and history of the past and also re-emphasizes the issue of drought.

The combination of photograph and plant in Oshidari's video installation, which is visually related to the above-mentioned work, again has a temporal and dynamic state. In the video, we see real and extremely delicate and fragile roots appear in a photograph of a couple, wrap around them, and finally dry up. At the bottom of the video, we see two black surfaces that are placed horizontally on a metal stool, in which wheat seeds have taken root and sprouted. A mirror is installed under these two black surfaces and the image behind them is the same photo that we see in the video, taking root, growing, and parching.



The third group of works in this show are paintings with a diverse color palette and human figures, in which signs of growth, maintenance, and protection are repeated with the representation of a mother and child. The land, on which water is flowing, is green and fertile. Rhythm is a significant element in the works of this show, used in rendering the growth of plants, birth, and growth of a child. In one of these paintings, which is relatively large in dimensions, we see a perspective of a forest landscape and two women each holding a baby in the middle of the frame. In another corner of the frame, we see a view of an ancient building that is mingling with the dynamic and lively atmosphere of trees. It is as if the artist considers the act of nurturing and mothering as a way to save nature and life.


Pooneh Oshidari | Survivors #2 | 2020 | monotype, ink and pastel on paper | 59 × 45 cm


This issue can be traced in the title of two paintings ("Survivors #1" and "Survivors #2") and the image represented in them, which depicts children next to their mothers. In this group of her paintings, the child is represented as a newborn baby standing somewhere above his or her mother's head. In another painting, the baby practices standing between the supportive hands of its mother, and in two other paintings, it is in her arms. The mother's hands are painted green or blue, and in the background, there are thriving plants and flowing water. For example, in one of these paintings, which contrary to the images of the previous group of works is optimistic and vibrant, we see a field full of flowers in the foreground, then a mother holding her naked child, and at last a tree that carries objects similar to the internal organs of the body next to them. In the background, there is a blue pond, in which a bride and groom (similar to what we saw in the photos of the bottom floor) are riding away on a boat.

In general, the artist's experimentalism in the employment of technique and material, paying attention to matters such as the process, time, and identity, and tying the last one to what is happening in the surrounding environment, nature, and ecosystem, is regarded a major theme of her works and a key characteristic of the artist in the context of contemporary Iranian art.