Soheila Sokhanvari is an Iranian-born artist whose multidisciplinary work weaves layers of political histories with bizarre, humorous and mysterious narratives that are then left to viewer’s own sensitivity to complete. Sokhanvari is drawn to traumas that linger in the collective consciousness or cause mass amnesia, and yet resist conventional representation. Playing with the relationship between the artwork and its title, Sokhanvari severs the signifier from the referent so that the resulting artwork functions as an aesthetic skin to a complex, buried issue.
“I am interested in Félix González-Torres’s ‘Specific Objects without Specific Form’ in which things are always what they are but also point to something outside of themselves,” she explains. “The art object then becomes a metaphor for an event, emphasising the mutability of meaning and form through viewer participation.”
“The act of experience is not the same as its representation,” she continues. “One has to invent layers to go with the representations, creating a communicative function for each unit of experience.”
Sokhanvari is also interested in the use of metaphor to speak about the inexpressible events, particularly with reference to Iran. Magic realism and use of metaphor in autocratic countries has historically permitted writers and artists to allow the meaning to lie between the lines and hence escape the limitations of being pinned down. It is both a gesture of protection and arena for exploration.
For ‘Open Heart Surgery’, Sokhanvari presents Hoochie Coochie Man (2013), a series of photographs of her father taken in the mid-1950s when he was modelling and designing clothes. The original prints have been hand-coloured by her father; Sokhanvari herself has added intricate and gilded details to the background, demonstrating a uniquely collaborative work across generations. “In a sense I have put a full-stop to my father’s sentence,” she feels.
Soheila Sokhanvari graduated in 2006 with a postgraduate diploma in Fine Art from Chelsea College of Art and Design and MFA Fine Art from Goldsmiths College in 2011. Her work has been shown at ‘TECTONIC,’ The Moving Museum, Dubai (2013) and selected for ‘Young Gods,’ Charlie Smith Gallery (2011). She was one of the UK graduates shortlisted for the Catlin Art prize in 2012 and has been exhibited as one of the top seven new art graduates for exTRAct at GL Strand, Copenhagen (2011). She is a resident artist at the Wysing Arts Centre, Cambridge.