On Shahrzad and the Eternal Feminine

Artist talk

On Shahrzad and the Eternal Feminine

With artist Sam Samiee

Thursday 20 June, 7-8 pm
£8/£6 (conc) Book

In this talk, artist Sam Samiee explores themes related to his new installations, The Fabulous Theology of Koh-i-noor and The Fabulous Theology of Darya-i-noor, both 2019, created for the current exhibition at Parasol unit. Referencing the two largest diamonds in the world, Koh-i-noor and Darya-i-noor, Samiee deconstructs and contrasts these fetishized symbols of power and domination to Shahrzad and her sister Dinazad from One Thousand and One Nights.

He asks the question: ‘What would Shahrzad in One Thousand and One Nights do if she had to paint?’

The merger of more than one canon in different fields of art within the Iranian cultural territory has been studied well, like in case of literature and cinema. Yet there is little depth when it comes to how the Iranian modernists reconciled the new arriving canons with their local frameworks of art production. Taking it from the question of ‘Adab’ as the mode of being for the subject of the Persianate world and applying it to visual arts canons, artist Sam Samiee will elaborate on the essential example of Adab, being the One Thousand and One Nights. Departing from that, the question is ‘What would Shahrzad do if she had to paint?’

From Bahram Beyzaei’s Geneology of the Ancient Tree to Manichean literature influencing the post-Islamic Persian poetry, Samiee will cover methodologies through which the example of Shahrzad of the One Thousand and One Nights produces a particular mode of being for the artist in which the aesthetics and ethics are of the same category: Adab. Through that one can re-read the world history of visual arts as well as other forms of aesthetics from the point of view of Shahrzad and her ‘feminine-maternal ethical responsibility for the other’.

Sam Samiee is an Iranian painter and essayist based in Amsterdam and Tehran. He has finished a two-year residency program at the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten in 2015. In his work, Samiee focuses on the practice of painting and research in philosophy, Persian literature, the history of painting and psychoanalysis. Characteristic of his work is the break from the tradition of flat painting and a return to the original question of how artists can represent the three-dimensional world in the space of painting as a metaphor, for a set of ideas. Therefore, most of his works are immersive painterly installations. A comparative readership of the history of Persian literature and western visual art read against the developments of psychoanalysis articulates the fields of Samiee’s interest and art practice. Subjects such as war, history of theology, psycho-geographies of landscapes and epistemic shifts have occupied the artistic explorations of Samiee through his embodiment of traditional and contemporary modes of art production and presentation.

Image: Sam Samiee, The Fabulous Theology of Koh-i-noor (Theologia Theatrica de Koh-i-noor), 2019. Nine Iranian Artists in London: THE SPARK IS YOU, installation view at Parasol unit, London, 2019. Photography by Benjamin Westoby. Courtesy of the artist and Parasol unit foundation for contemporary art.