gb agency, Paris
February 4 - March 11, 2023
Extended until March 18, 2023
The Trapped Lullabies is a nursery rhyme replayed by Tirdad Hashemi in their solo show at gb agency. It is a song from their childhood one sings while mourning a loved one. The setting of a prison cell is set, the injustices in Iran today recall those experienced by loved ones; the artist’s memories, even more intimate, resurface. The exhibition tells of the muted violence of a brutal, absurd and limitless power in the face of the revolt of an unarmed people.
For Tirdad Hashemi, art is always linked to community. Art, even at the stage of inspiration, requires the presence of others; perhaps because for them, life has meaning only in society, in communion with other people. Artistic creation is not an exception. Tirdad Hashemi hates being alone. Not only can they work with another artist, but they also involve the Other in their work process; they even incorporate another painter’s work into their exhibition. In this way, their art and their lifestyle are symbiotic.
The Trapped Lullabies, is an exhibition of drawings, paintings and two installations by Tirdad Hashemi. Also on view is a notebook by Soufia Erfanian, including portraits of Tirdad, themselves and their couple.
The first series, The Blue Poisoning, reveals the outcome of the artist’s weary and depressed days in the winter of 2022, following their second migration from Paris to Berlin. The color blue expresses the feelings of sadness and loneliness felt by Tirdad in the frozen Berlin cold. Lonely and tormented bodies seem to struggle to live; despite their suffering, they still hope. The artist’s playful expression in the use of long, soft and free lines, the use of motifs such as water, watering cans or plants create an unreal and satirical world. The blank paper, the non-static and turbulent composition of the works with its naive and playful figures are opposed to the feeling of sadness that emerges. Often filled with white, the frame stages the daily life of characters drawn as if they were unbalanced or disproportionate: stretched, suspended, inclined.
TheTrapped Lullabies, is Tirdad Hashemi’s latest series.The paintings are marked by the recent political events in Iran, their native country, following the murder of a young Kurdish girl named Jina (Mehsa) Amini in Tehran by the so-called morality police.The protest movement with the slogan Women, Life, Freedom started in Iran on September 16, 2022. This movement has not only awakened great hope in the hearts of the Iranian people, but has also attracted the attention of many oppressed women, philosophers, personalities in Iran and around the world, creating a complex mixture of joy, pain and sadness that is reflected in most of Tirdad’s latest works. While their previous series showed a certain critical spirit, the distancing disappears in TheTrapped Lullabies, as if the collective sadness of the recent events in Iran had a direct impact (influence) on the artist’s melancholy and creativity.
In contrast to previous works, here everything is being buried. There is no escape to breathe. The entire surface of the canvas is covered with thin layers of paint. The artist’s color palette is often dark or achromatic. The pigments are stratified, the traces of their layers are made visible.Through this method of coloring, the artist, consciously or unconsciously, refers to the depth of pain.The photos of insurrections are a source of inspiration to illustrate the resistance of the Iranian people against the government forces; in the scenes of violence, the characters no longer have a free and fluid aspect as in the previous drawings. Instead, they are rigid and determined. Tirdad Hashemi thus intensifies the darkness, the anguish and the violence in their paintings. Death becomes the main subject, lives lost, dreams buried.The insurgents are embodied in sleeping, lonely, neglected or embraced bodies.
Tirdad Hashemi often relies on chance for the choice of material and support of their works: they appropriate small canvases in the street as if to resurrect the memories of the artists who had left them there. They pay homage to the victims of their country, making these innocent beings rest on the canvas and under the earth (taken from their garden). They will also use, after having burned them, clothes found one day by chance. In Berlin, it is common to leave objects in the street in order to give them a second life. The artist thus recovered a drawing book, extending its lines, page after page; the narrative between two stories is constructed in a random and poetic way. In the process of selecting materials, not only the artist’s subjectivity is important, but also their relationship with the place where they lived, or the friends with whom they were in contact. It is the artist’s intimacy with their surroundings that is reflected in the work.
Tirdad Hashemi draws violence, suffering and death naked - it is neither decorative nor seductive. The current exhibition is at the intersection of different types of grief: the personal and collective co-exist. Beyond market or political issues, Art is humanistic and can make the world a better place according to the artist.
MAHSA MOHAMMADI: Would you like to tell us a little more about the way you work?
TIRDAD HASHEMI: Today, I can say with certainty that I like to value things that exist but are not used and are eaten away by dust.When I was a student, it was incomprehensible to me to see my friends not washing their tools and brushes properly, leaving them in a corner, and then buying new tools again and again.
MM: Do you think this attachment you have to keeping objects and tools comes from a fear of loss and oblivion… could it be said that there is a link between your paintings and the desire to perpetuate the memory of objects and feelings?
TH:To be honest, your interpretation is more beautiful than mine.That’s why I wanted this article to come from you. Sometimes I feel close to your posts and the photos you share on Instagram. So, it’s best to answer this question briefly and say that yes, I think it is so.
MM: Your pictorial expression reminds me of Milton Avery: the way you simplify forms, mix painting and drawing, flat colors and even the lyrical form of plant branches.Your work can also seem musical. Also,Avery’s studio was always been full of artists working side by side.The two women you see in most of his work are his wife and daughter. In general, Avery’s paintings reflect his family relationships and personal life. Have you ever thought about this connection?
TH: I think I’ve always been influenced by children’s work. We all know how to draw when we are little, and we are all painters. We forget to paint when we grow up. I enjoy watching children draw because they have a particular way of looking at the world, without trying to convey a specific message or a single idea, they paint what they feel.That’s why I like working with artists who have never exhibited before.Their sincerity brings me back to my adolescence. I remember the definition of art I had in my head when I was 16.
MM: When you were sixteen, how did you see art?
TH:At that time, for me the market was an abstract subject. I thought that the honesty of art could make a positive change in the world and create an artistic, philosophical movement… or a topic of conversation. The art market is not often very different from the gold and dollar market, so I’m not sure how art can influence that market. One of the characteristics of humble art with integrity is that it must be understandable to all. Its priority is to create a form of empathy.
MM: Is your goal to evoke art as a shared sensory experience? Is there a particular feeling you want to communicate with your work?
TH: I think painting, art, is for everyone. Not just for a specific audience, so it needs to be expressed in a simple language so that anyone can understand it and talk about it. Throughout history, the street has been a source of inspiration for many artists. For example, Agnes Varda, a French New Wave filmmaker, said that whenever she is empty of ideas, she goes to the street and never comes back empty-handed.
MM: Do you also consciously make the street your source of inspiration… or do you come across objects on the street completely at random that catch your eye or form an idea in your mind?
TH: Either way, the street is full of happenings. We all create these randomness together. I see myself as a small part of the street and I try to reflect that in my work.The history of things left on the street is also important to me, why they are there and what their stories are. Objects, people or dreams should not be forgotten. For the exhibition, I collaborated with a friend, Nacer Ahmadi, on a piece of music. Nacer has been stuck in Turkey for five or six years, waiting for a positive answer to his asylum request. Five or six years is a long time.The story of all these objects, these lost or abandoned projects are like forgotten wishes.
MM: Tirdad, I remember you saved a lot of material buried in a corner, you mentioned buried or wasted memories and dreams. Do you like to connect these lost memories and dreams to your painting and art and give them a second life?
TH: I think there is a terrible thing in this world, when you ask most people if they love their work, the answer is no.They spend their free time resting in order to get back to their work again. Most of them don’t even have time to think about what they want and even forget what they used to dream about. Some of my paintings are inspired by forgotten dreams and ambitions.
MM: For your exhibition, you want to place the paintings at ground level. Has the angle of view of the visitors and your work ever been a problem for you? I will not be fortunate enough to be present at your show, however when I imagine looking at your work displayed to the public, it evokes the same embrace that you have drawn in some of your paintings. As if in order to look at this body of work, one would have to make a more intimate connection to it: to lean into them or sit in front of them.
TH: I placed the paintings at ground level so that it would look like a cemetery. In this way, looking at the paintings would be like visiting tombstones.With this staging, I tried to get closer to the original project.
MM: The human body is present in most of your works, the bodies are often drawn as if they were unbalanced or disproportionate.They often appear as painful and yearning to be released. Or perhaps we are dealing with souls that have not positioned themselves well in their bodies and the conflict between the two has knocked them down or shaped them as we see in your work. In the notebook you found on the street and later intervened, the focus is again placed on the body, here the background and space are almost removed. Sometimes elements are added to convey feeling, like a big tear that covers the whole body on some pages. In this notebook, I really like the very minimalist expression you used.The bodies relax like the works on the canvas, but there is a difference between these two categories: on the one hand, the relationship between the character and the surface of the paper by removing the space, on the other hand, in some of your pages, we are confronted with a kind of duality in the state of his bodies. As if in the paintings, the release of the bodies depended on death or sleep. Here we are in a kind of desire for active liberation, and at the same time, they are resting as if they were trying to escape the frame.The link between the size of the character and the format of the paper accentuates this tension between space and character and gives the viewer the sensation of bodies enclosed in the frame. I would like you to tell us more about the bodies in your art.
TH: When I was a teenager I defined myself as transgender, today I consider myself gender fluid. I have always been confronted with questions about the body and sexuality and have lived with these questions.
MM: There is a detention center bed where you have placed Soufia’s notebook. In this setting, a piece of music is also playing. Could you explain why you chose this piece and the bed?
TH: To be honest, I created this space more for myself than for the audience, it is a kind of therapy. This setting is related to the way I look at myself and my memories. I wanted to forgive myself for having let my body be imprisoned in small closed rooms. Of course, I was forced to do so, but after these experiences, my phobia of closed spaces developed.This time, I felt like singing a lullaby to myself with the piece of music we had worked on with Nacer and recapturing my childhood memories. I place Soufia’s notebook, where she drew my pale portraits, next to the bed to create a safe space for myself. I reconstructed images, those that I had in mind while also evoking the intimacy that exists between Souphia and I.
MM: To finish, is there anything you would like to add?
TH: Che Guevara nicely said, On a pillow full of dead birds,You can’t dream of flying.