Published on May 10, 2013 | by Naz K Rasmussen


Homa Arkani’s Tehran in all its satire

Self-made Iranian artist Homa Arkani, whose paintings have gone viral online, opened her first solo exhibition outside of Iran on May 2.

ALN visited The Invisible Line gallery for the opening of Homa Arkani’s solo show, and a chat with artistic director Tara Aghdashloo:


If you have to see just one Middle-Eastern gallery exhibition this month, the eye-opening Aesthetics of a Zebra by Homa Arkani should be it.

A boy smoking a crack pipe, a woman literally juggling her grandparents, and a harem of young Iranians entertaining themselves; these are all characters in Arkani’s non-fiction work.

While her works are novel in their candid characterisation of modern Iranian youth, she steers clear of overtly political messages. The Tehran-born artist depicts her immediate social surroundings: women, men, and boys, torn between tradition and that which is perceived to be modern, in an oppressed society.

The self-made painter is inspired by the humour of Pop Art. She was introduced to Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol at university and decided this style could best describe the social problems of Iran.

Arkani envelops her oil-on-canvas paintings with edgy, paradoxical details, unlike her contemporaries who use Persian heritage and tradition. In her painting ‘Rape on the Metro’, Persian scripts detailing how women should act towards men are subtly embedded into a scene where two men are seen hitting on a woman.

Part of the excitement is seeing a glimpse of what Iranian youth really indulge in – socially, culturally and psychologically. The other part is seeing Arkani’s clever and critical depiction of it. Perhaps this is why her work has gone viral: she gets into the Iranians’ personal space.

“You don’t have to be Iranian to feel this inbetween’ness of struggle with your past and present in society.” Curator Tara Aghdashloo

Tara Aghdhashloo, artistic director and curator of The Invisible Line, said that while Iranians may immediately get Homa’s work, “it speaks a lot to anyone who looks at it.

“You don’t have to be Iranian to feel this inbetween’ness of struggle with your past and present in society.”

The Invisible Line, a small gallery in London’s up-and-coming, creative hub Dalston, discovered Arkani through social media. Tara Aghdhashloo immediately knew she had to host the artist’s first solo exhibition outside of Iran.

“The way she puts issues on her canvas is funny, bright and at the same time very insightful…I’m personally always critical of my surroundings and I like it when people question their own surroundings,” the curator said.

The eponymous gallery curates art that falls between invisible lines. “We are concerned with invisible lines and categories and how people fall behind and ahead…we support established as well as emerging artists, especially the ones who are in the in-between category,” said Tara Aghdashloo.

Homa Arkani’s exhibition The Aesthetics of a Zebra will be on at the Invisible Line Gallery until May 19.


Related links:

Homa Arkani’s website

The Invisible Line gallery



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