A journey from university to gallery 2015

  On her card, in the centre of a quite popular Farsi saying, typographed circularly, lays an image of a cat. The saying can literally be translated to,” As long as you haven’t had the unseen Halwa covered with Saffron, you cannot catch the taste” (It is worth mentioning that Halwa is a kind of pastry which, in Iran, is only served in funeral ceremonies), and figuratively it means as long as one hasn’t experienced a specific misery they cannot fully understand the consequences.

     On the opening night one would recognize the artist, dressed formally in black, who would greet the audience in quite a formal way, not the sort of greeting common in art exhibitions, more of a funeral sort of greeting. Audience were offered to have Halwa on two silver platters. The Halwa was carved in form of three sleeping cats curled into one another on one of the platters and in form of a lying cat on the other. On both dishes the cats were covered with a Saffron coating. Although some of the viewers were quite reluctant to impale the Saffron coating on Halwa, or for that matter injure the cats, or even better said destroy the artwork, others did not hesitate to help themselves with the treat.

    Going past the opening scene, viewers would observe some sculptures of lying cats on different pieces of furniture, borrowed from people’s houses. The room was covered with a heavy hum of silence, since all the cats were comfortably sleeping on chairs and sofas, to which they were quite accustomed. All the more, the sculptures were perfectly covered with a shiny transparent coating which brought them an initial feeling of being luxurious and ornamental. But the way they were presented was nowhere near any sort of decorative art. The cats were casually dosing off on ordinary pieces of furniture. The setting was of an absolutely calm and cosy nature, where one would feel like taking a rest, or even a nap!

     As a matter of fact, these sculptures were the final thesis artworks of the artist, who has recently been graduated, and were presented then, though with a difference. At the university they were presented on usual gallery stands, specific to figurative sculptures, gallery objects. This alteration initially seemed to be slight but has finally caused a completely different setting to the whole show. Considering the thesis project as the outcome of a period of 4 years studying, lying cat as a figure and to be more precise the figure of lying  has figuratively been used to refer to the static and stagnant nature of education at the arts universities. While after their journey to the gallery, these pieces with slight practical variations and also with the help of a few people, who lent parts of their daily lives to the artist and for that matter to the body of work itself, became a theatrical setting. The show, to me, was about the journey, from the traditional concept of art, and more precisely traditional concept of sculpture to a more modern one, in which life in all its likely forms has quite a massive impact on the body of work.

     Apart from the furniture the Halwa carved cats, or food in broader sense, clearly represented the common and transient aspects of life, on which Nasrin Tork, the artist, had directly emphasized by different means, among them the similarity of clay and Halwa for creating sculptures and the fact that both had to be cooked, same methods, additive method, were made use of to create same kind of creatures, and in terms of coating, the similarity and for that matter the artist’s emphasis was obvious, then again. The coating was meant to turn the sculpture to a supreme piece of art and, moreover, the breaks and cracks on the coating on the surface of the sculptures were where one could grasp a sense of what was underneath as in the case of Halwa in order to grasp the taste one should penetrate through the Saffron coating which also meant to turn Halwa into a treat.

    The discursive language, in this case containing figurative essence of the traditional saying, was followed sensibly by the opening scene, a simile to evoke a sense of mortality alongside the deliberate choice of transient material, for the Halwa carved cats, to create some parts of the body of work. These were all artistically made use of to put in contrast with and emphasize the represented stagnant and immobile nature of the cosiness in the main scene, which metaphorically stood for the situation of our so called “art scene”.