11 November – 21 December, 2016
This ambiguous title is open to the visitor’s interpretation as one goes down to the lower level of Super Dakota. For her first exhibition at the gallery, Sanam Khatibi created a garden nested in a cave, far from our traditional conception of landscaping prowess.
The show comprises a series of new works: paintings and sculptures, inhabiting this world of strange poetry. The place compares to a reverted Eden with a door left wide open, only for chimeric creatures to penetrate.
“What really interests me is our relationship to power structures, and the duality of power and failure”.
Our first impression is that we are confronted with contrasts and allegories; facing a reversal of values where females devour male figures, where beasts reign and our animality prevails. This uncomfortable nature, beautiful yet violent puts our primal impulses at the centre of the stage.
The Iranian born artist chooses to paint the female figures with pencils, unfinished, uniformed, a group of recurring silhouettes like replicas taking over this dangerous paradise.
It is certainly a way to question the balance of power between the sexes and the male/ female interaction in our society, but pictorially it gives a sense of lightness to these amazons, an aura of divinity.
They are dominant characters, impulsive and playful. They are ambiguous with their relationship to power, violence, sensuality and each other. And this ambiguity translates in the contrasts of the painting; sometime the depiction is precise, almost clinical, we understand Sanam’s admiration for the Renaissance, however sometime the brush strokes are rougher, more expressionist and the nature flaws into abstraction. A simple reminder that what we are seeing isn’t real, that this nature doesn’t exist and is only an allegory.
The sculptures operate like artefacts, they are scattered in the space and underline the idea of a lost world found underneath layers of ground through archaeological excavations. A cruel world that we gladly outlived and which only survives in the arts. Sanam’s work bares the imprints of classic literature, mythology and romantic poetry.
Along with the apparent bestiality and the violence of the depicted scenes, the artist keeps an amused eye on the joyful carnival, and always keeps a light tone to the play in place. It is the artist’s prerogative to magnify the best and the worse of our nature and so does Sanam Khatibi as she turns her Jardin Décomposé into a divine comedy.