Curator: Saghi Ehteshamzadeh
Artists: Audineh Asaf, Ece Asitanelioğlu, Elmira Sarreshtehdari, Goli, Kate Arkiletian, Kiana Shahnia, Laleh Javaheri, Mina Saneei, Moozhan Ahmadzadegan, Nazanin Khalili, Roselynn Sadaghiani, Sanaz Haeri, Yasaman MoussavI
North Van Arts presents Women, Life, Freedom, an exhibition which provides a platform for the voices of Iranian women to be heard and their stories to be shared. This show celebrates the beauty and strength of Iranian women, while also shedding light on the inequality women face internationally.
Curatorial Statement by Saghi Ehteshamzadeh:
For a woman navigating the world is a treacherous journey; for an Iranian woman, it is a rugged terrain fraught with obstacles.
For generations, the women of Iran have been denied their fundamental human rights, robbed of their bodily autonomy, and unable to live their lives to the fullest. But in the wake of the tragic murder of Mahsa (Zhina) Amini in September 2022, a powerful force rose up. The remarkable women of Iran refused to accept the injustice any longer and began the “Women, Life, Freedom” movement.
As an artist, I felt compelled to contribute to this influential movement. My art serves as a testament to the bravery and resilience of Iranian women who have fought against oppression and inequality. This exhibition is an invitation for you to join us in this contemporary feminist movement, to add your voice to the chorus of those who resist oppression and to stand with Iranian women fighting for their freedom.
Let us unite in solidarity, joined in our quest to create a future where all women can live free from constraint and celebrate the beauty and strength of Iranian women who continue to inspire us all.
Saghi Ehteshamzadeh (b. 1995, Tehran) is a queer interdisciplinary Vancouver-based artist whose practice ranges from cinema, visual art, and video art. Since residing in Vancouver, Saghi has been directing a video art series called ‘The Journal,’ a personal look into the futuristic-nostalgic era we’re living in, the first part of which won the Best Screenlife award from the Small File Festival 2022 in Vancouver. Their other recent art project is a multi-disciplinary art show called “A Journey Through Scoliosis,” which was exhibited at the Penticton Gallery, BC, in September 2022. In her most recent unpublished series called ‘My Femininity Grows,’ Saghi makes amends with their femininity after years of detesting it living under the oppression of the regime of Iran. Ever since the ‘Women, Life, Freedom’ revolution in Iran, Saghi has been using art as a form of activism to raise awareness about their home country and the injustice women face there. They facilitated a talk as a part of the “Catalyst: Art as Activism” conference at Capilano University in 2022, illustrating how art has been a part of the ongoing female-led revolution in Iran.
Saghi holds a Bachelor of Cinema Studies from the Art University of Tehran and is currently enrolled in the Arts and Entertainment Management Program at Capilano University in North Vancouver.
Audineh Asaf is an interdisciplinary artist from Seattle utilizing non-traditional and hybrid forms of drawing, painting, printmaking, photography, and collage. Audineh’s artwork draws inspiration from her history, environment, and Iranian heritage.
In response to the current uprising in Iran, she used her art to give voice and visibility to the protestors. Audineh’s artwork ‘Woman. Life. Freedom.’ has been recognized with the 2022 Future Art Awards from MOZAIK Philanthropy and exhibited at venues including the Jacob Lawrence Gallery (University of Washington, School of Art + Art History + Design), Culture Lab LIC (Queens, NY), Woman Made Gallery (Chicago, IL), and Gallery II (Washington State University, Department of Fine Arts).
Audineh holds a BA in Interdisciplinary Visual Art from the University of Washington and an MFA in Interdisciplinary Art from Goddard College. She is currently faculty and Chair of the Art department at Edmonds College.
Ece Asitanelioğlu is an emerging artist from Istanbul, Turkey. After graduating from Eyüboğlu High School with a Turkish and an IB diploma she moved to Vancouver, Canada to attend the University of British Columbia. She began her first year in Media Studies and then completed her BA in Visual Arts. Throughout Ece’s degree, she experimented with various media to discover her style. Her current practices include painting, photography, sculpture, and wood work.
Ece partook in three group exhibitions during her undergraduate degree at UBC that included: Visual Art Undergraduate Exhibition (AHVA Gallery, Audain Art Centre, 2020), “What is a student body?” (Hatch Art Gallery, AMS Student Nest, 2022), and MESH Visual Art Graduating Exhibition (AHVA Gallery, Audain Art Centre, 2022). MESH was also one of the first curatorial experience of her academic career. Ece helped curate, organize, and install artworks by Germaine Koh who was the Koerner Artist in Residence at UBC during the years 2021 and 2022. She worked with Germaine and installed pieces like Fête, Accord of Wood, and The Haunting II in different locations around the UBC campus. Aside from her artistic accomplishments she has always been very passionate about being present in the art scene, extensively attending events, concerts, plays, and dances. Ece has volunteered and worked in numerous art institutions in Vancouver, including; The Polygon Gallery, the Vancouver Biennale, the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, the Rennie Museum, and the Vancouver Art Gallery. Ece also really enjoys traveling to new places and makes sure to visit as many galleries and museums as she can.
nowadays, while walking home from a night out with friends, I catch myself rushing home and having to look over my shoulder constantly just because I worry the wrong person might catch a glimpse of my legs.
This justified paranoia is an instinctive reflex that so many girls and women, including myself have developed. Sadly this is not a location specific issue, but a world wide problem. This piece is in solidarity with the injustices carried out against women all around the world including and especially Iran in these trying times. I aim to depict the struggle of women and the oppressed using the gesture of turning your head backwards while walking alone because of not feeling safe on the streets.
Elmira Sarreshtehdari is an artist, art researcher, and instructor based in Canada. Elmira is a PhD student in art education at The University of British Columbia and holds an MFA from the University of Calgary. Elmira is interested in the audiences’ encounter with dis-placed art and inquires how this aesthetic interaction could provide a proliferating space for further communication and meaning-making between multiple cultures, bodies, mediums, traditions, places, assumptions, and such. Elmira works with different art materials and mediums such as drawing, participatory installation art, sound, and video performance.
Yasaman Moussavi is a visual artist and educator. She is a Ph.D. student in Art education at the University of British Columbia and holds an MFA in visual art from Texas Tech University, USA. In her art practice research, she explores the socio-cultural in-betweenness as a capacity and disposition to participate in the process of meaning-making and learning across cultures and languages. Yasaman examines the ways in which art-making intervenes the established social relations in order to recover the embodied act of mapping and placemaking as a constituent to build social bonding. Her works have been displayed in many national and international solo and group exhibitions.
Elmira Sarreshtehdari & Yasaman Moussavi – Artists Statement
Being far from home and receiving the flood of news reflecting the current women-led uprising in Iran, after a few weeks of being mentally and creatively frozen, we (Yasaman Moussavi, Elmira Sarreshtehdari) started collaborating on a mixed media exchange project based on these distressing events. This work has become the representation of our embodied and overwhelming emotions tangled with our everyday life living in Canada.
Although being complicated, we had a sense of urgency to react creatively to the complicated political condition in Iran. Imitating the conversations revolving around the pieces of news received from social media, we initiated an ongoing tactile and performative art project that extends and expands gradually. The scope of the information that we are constantly consuming does not let us have enough time and mental space to fully digest the situation. It’s as if we are obligated, to move from each image, text, or announcement to the next piece of news appearing before us without any hesitation. As a result, we found a necessity for a fast-paced form of artmaking to illustrate the ever-unfolding and unfinished nature of this situation. We follow the repetitive visual elements that stay with us after scrolling through the news; a specific colour, a word, crowd movement, infiltrating gazes, or an unexpected incident could be a spark for us to return to our pieces. At times we linger with the terminologies, slogans, and vocabularies used over and over in different locations inside and outside Iran. We discuss and negotiate how we feel about them and how they could be a pathway for the possible liberation of our people.
Conversing through making has been happening between us for the past three years. From the Covid 19 pandemic to the recent challenging time in our home countries, our collaborative practices have been a way to gain better understanding of the crisis we have been experiencing. The way in which ideas and knowledge of events change, evolve and/or vanish is embedded in the dialogic act of exchanging pieces of art between us. Similar to the unprecedented occurrences unfolding in front of our eyes, we follow our materials to take us to the next step. Layers upon layers gather as we revisit our mutual painful memories and encounter unknown circumstances without a clear future residing on our political horizon. Moreover, the disappearance and reappearance of language and constant movement between the two literal spaces have been translated into the transformation of materials traveling back and forth between us.
Goli, (b. Tehran, Iran) is an interdisciplinary artist based in Vancouver. She received her MFA from Simon Fraser University and BFA in Painting from the Tehran University of Art. Her work touches on surrealism, abstraction and worldbuilding with various non-human creatures through a multitude of mediums, including painting, video and sculpture installation. Goli explores the human body and its connection to memory, fantasy and the uncanny, highlighting a foundation of humor found within. Golli investigates experiences of her body and mind in relation to her environment, vis à vis the process of making the artworks, the choice of colours, and materiality within the installation.
This series of photo-collages takes a critical view on young Iranian girls’ school and mandatory hijab.The photo-collages are pictures of my first grade and first day of school. I am holding flowers and smiling. I remember the excitement I felt, but I don’t remember anything about the hijab. It was simply part of the uniform. At that time, I did not know how other young girls around the world dressed for school, there was nothing to compare my situation with. It was later in life that I came to realize how different my reality was from others. The faces are hidden under glitter and beads, as it doesn’t matter whose face Is. This can be any little girl going to school in Iran with a mandatory hijab.
Kate Arkiletian is a ceramic artist whose work focuses on celebrating the power of the feminine. Born and raised in the mountains of the West Kootenays, Kate developed a love for ceramics at a young age and went on to study ceramic sculpture at the University of Waterloo. She followed up her BFA with a diploma in functional pottery from the centre de ceramiques Bonsecours in Montreal.
Her work explores themes of female empowerment and connection, often incorporating bold and intricate carvings on the surfaces of her pieces. She works with clay creating both functional and sculptural pieces to create vivid and thought-provoking pieces that celebrate the unique strengths and abilities of women.
Kate is drawn to the ocean as a powerful symbol of the unconscious mind and the primordial feminine. The ocean represents the deep, mysterious aspects of the psyche that lie beneath the surface, much like the hidden depths of the ocean. She believes that the ocean’s vastness, depth, and ever-changing nature are a reflection of the vastness, complexity, and fluidity of the feminine. Through her work, she often incorporates ocean themes and motifs such as waves and sea creatures to explore these themes and celebrate the power of the feminine. By using these symbols, she hopes to inspire people to connect with their own unconscious and embrace the feminine qualities of intuition, creativity, and fluidity. Overall, Kate’s art serves as a reminder of the powerful symbolism of the ocean and by extension the moon, and their connection to the primordial feminine, inviting viewers to explore their own inner depths and celebrate the mysteries of the feminine.
Kate has exhibited her work in galleries and exhibitions throughout the lower mainland.
In addition to her work as an artist, Kate is also involved in teaching art. She currently lives and works in North Vancouver.
As an artist, my uterine sculptures represent the power of the feminine in a variety of ways. By creating art that celebrates the uterus, I am reclaiming this organ as a symbol of female power, strength and resilience. However, my sculptures also serve as a reminder of women’s solidarity with one another. Women have long faced unique challenges and barriers, and the support of other women can be a powerful force for overcoming these obstacles. Through this message of solidarity, I aim to highlight the strength and power that comes from women supporting and lifting each other up to create a world where women can thrive and achieve their full potential, both individually and collectively. By supporting one another, women can build a more just and equitable society, one that recognizes and values the contributions of all people, regardless of gender.
The connection between the moon and the feminine is deeply rooted in many cultures and spiritual traditions. The lunar cycle, which spans roughly 28 days, is similar in length to the average menstrual cycle, and this similarity has led to the moon being seen as a symbol of fertility, connection and power. The moon’s cyclical nature, with its phases of waxing and waning, is often seen as a metaphor for the cyclical nature of life and I have utilized this imagery on my sculptures to underscore the deep connections women have with one another. Women who support each other can create a community of shared experiences and perspectives, offering support, encouragement, and guidance. Each of the three uteri represent a different phase in a woman’s life; the waxing uterus is youth, and growth, the full uterus is maturity, and motherhood, and the waning uterus is wisdom and menopause.
Kiana Shahnia is an Iranian Vancouver based visual artist with a primary focus on oil on panel paintings. Her artistic practice has been significantly influenced by her experience of cultural displacement, combined with her academic practices, situating her works within a liminal and Eurocentric art historical narrative. This is a narrative that has engraved what art is, how it is produced, who should view it, and what should the viewer gain from engaging with it. Kiana constructs spectacles, phantastic viewing experiences that challenge one’s desire to peep, to watch, and to be entertained by what is seen, setting the audience as central subjects of her paintings and making them aware of it.
The presence of a viewer’s surveilling gaze upon a work of art is inevitable. It is a gaze produced from the voyeuristic interest in the strange other who is not the self, where one’s desires are captured in the imaginary representation of the other. Here, it is the Western gaze that becomes the observer, one that falls from privilege, one that observes, projects, and creates a fantasy of the other as a tool to establish the Self. This self observes the troubles, failures, and humiliations, of the other and finds pleasure and is entertained, this is Schadenfreude. This theatre, as a space that contains the pleasure of the viewer/subject relation, serves a potent symbol for societal transformation by staging the Shahnameh inspired war as a dynamic representation of the revolution in Iran. It serves as a stage where the complexities of these conflicts are showcased, shedding light on the human experiences and realities often overshadowed by voyeuristic or entertainment-driven narratives. The Theatre box becomes the manifestation of the pervasive influence of media that contributes to the portrayal of these conflicts as dramatic spectacles or sensationalized narratives. The Western gaze becomes intrigued or entertained by the perceived exoticism, drama, and unpredictability associated with the region’s conflicts. This engagement stems from a distance and detachment, where the conflicts are observed as distant spectacles rather than deeply affecting realities. Hence, as the audience steps before my Theatre, presented to them within a Western white cube, they take pleasure and are entertained by the beauty, the exoticness, and the strangeness of the other. They might might even find themselves taking part in the show and initiating the action just to be further intrigued as the flames rise higher and the violence is activated.
Laleh Javaheri is a visual artist who has worked in wide variety of media over the span of over 40 years.
She was born in Tehran, Iran in 1957 and started life drawing at the age of 12. She took on sculpture and jewelry design at the Tehran University of Arts and continued her education in the United States in sculpture and ceramics. She has worked in several disciplines and media from textiles to jewelry and sculptural forms to paintings and her work had been exhibited at several local and international exhibitions.
Laleh’s work is an exploration of the visual and symbolic representation of Iranian women’s struggle against oppression and injustice.
This visual presentation conveys the fundamental truth that ultimately, the unity of women, who have always been subjected to double oppression in society, can lead to freedom and emancipation. The suitcase covered in cut hair, symbolizes the message of women’s declaration of war that is no longer confined to the geography of Iran, but has traveled across the globe, involving women from other countries as well. A woman who once cut a lock of her hair to accompany her beloved warrior on his journey has transformed into a fighter who cuts her lock of hair to become the brave and self-reliant warrior who brings freedom for herself.
Mina Saneei is an Iranian jewellery designer and goldsmith born in 1989, who transitioned from architecture to pursue a more hands-on approach to artistic expression. Exploring various mediums including wood, resin, metal, and leather. It was during her silversmithing classes that Mina realized her true calling. Enthralled by the captivating properties of metal, she relocated to Toronto in 2018 to study Jewellery Arts at George Brown College. Now, having graduated in 2021, Mina continues her artistic journey in Vancouver, expanding her knowledge of goldsmithing and creating unique jewellery pieces that reflect her knowledge and passion for the craft.
The eyeglass design I present is a tribute to the courageous individuals who became victims of violence during the “woman, life, freedom” movement in Iran. These brave protesters such as Mohsen Kafshgar, Ghazal Ranjkesh, and countless others, were tragically blinded by bullets, resulting in permanent loss of vision in one or both eyes. They will forever be remembered as valiant warriors of justice and liberty. This design draws inspiration from the resilience and unity displayed by these victims. Despite their injuries, they gathered offering support and refusing to surrender to the cruelty inflicted upon them. Their unwavering determination for freedom serves as a powerful reminder of their strength and unwavering spirit. Through this eyeglass design, I aim to pay homage to these individuals and shed light on the ongoing struggle for justice and equality. May their resilience inspire others to stand up against injustice and continue fighting for a brighter future guided by the principles of truth, compassion, and freedom.
“The voice of their eyes is louder than a roar.”
,Moozhan Ahmadzadegan is an emerging artist based on the unceded and traditional territory of the syilx Okanagan people, Commonly known as the Okanagan. He received a BFA from the University of British Columbia Okanagan with a Major in Visual Arts and a Minor in Art History and Visual Culture in 2019. His work has been exhibited in artist-run centres and public art galleries such as the Alternator Centre for Contemporary Art, The Fifty Fifty Arts Collective, and the Kelowna Art Gallery. In 2021 he was awarded the UBC Alumni Builder Award and selected for the BC Arts Council Early Career Development award under the mentorship of Tania Willard. Moozhan is also co-founder of the Laundry Room Collective; an artist-run collective that works to provide accessible arts and culture programming, support emerging artists, and foster diversity and inclusion in an effort to meaningfully contribute to his community.
My practice engages personal and social inquiry as a means to navigate themes of identity, queerness, Iranian diaspora, cultural inbetweeness and connection. This spectrum of ideas informs the basis of my practice and serves as a point of access to deepen my understanding of social and cultural topics. My studio practice and artistic research explores traditional Persian miniature painting, illustrative styles, and materiality. I employ the mediums of painting, screenprinting, textiles, found-objects, lights, and more recently plants. These mediums explore my curiosity on how we respond and engage with the colonial social and cultural structures that impact identity on personal, national and public scales. Oftentimes, my work lacks resolution and instead offers a continuous reflection on the complexities of identity and the broad spectrum of intersecting ideas that have become the vocabulary of my practice.
,e.Nazanin was born in Tehran, Iran in 1998; she started to learn painting at the age of 5, entered to exceptional talent school at the age 14 and studied French Translation at the university. She found her my passion for painting [mostly watercolor] and playing the cello since her teenage years, and these have been inseparable parts of Nazanin’s life ever since.
Nazanin has been teaching both English and French for more than 6 years. By teaching she creates a close connection with the society and gets inspired to reflect people’s thoughts, issues and emotions through art.
After the death of Mahsa Amini, many people started protesting against the Islamic government in Iran. During these movements and protests, couples started to kiss each other in order to break clichés and taboos…Kissing got viral and soon it became a symbol for living.
For all the things which they have been banned in Iran by its government, youth, love, life and freedom, many people have been arrested, tortured and sentenced to death.
I drew this kiss between two lovers in Shiraz, to respect the brave people standing for Woman, Life, Freedom. I believe in hope in dark days, which is one the most precious things in life.
In her practice, Roselynn has a vested interest in tracing the genealogy of mass-produced objects and materials. These are small objects, forgettable objects, or even unseen objects that we don’t pay much mind to normally, but we are, to some extent, dependent on. These objects are everywhere and entangled with capitalist and imperialist systems and institutions, including art institutions. In the past, Roselynn has worked with materials such as Vaseline petroleum jelly, car oil filters, ceiling panels, and censored images of women taken from Iranian media. Her work utilizes processes of research, particularly material research, by following the lineage of these mass-manufactured and industrial objects she has collected or taken from a specific site. Roselynn’s artworks have often transgressed from just one medium and have spanned paintings, installations, sculptures, and ready-mades. Ultimately, she is always interested in the physical encounter with matter, especially in how she chooses to present them: What do they smell like or look like up close? What qualities and histories are embedded within these materials that we normally overlook?
Roselynn often thinks about her practice and the objects of her fascination in terms of the “itch-scratch cycle,” a dermatological pattern characterized by the desperate act of cyclical and habitual self-harm where an itch causes one to scratch, and the scratch causes inflammation and a worsening rash. Itching and scratching are both interdependent and reflexive; while we scratch the itch for immediate relief, it ends up causing more itching and deterioration of the skin. And hence, the everyday and invisible objects of both dependency and destruction have.
My piece was largely influenced by conversations I had with my mother about processes of extraction. She shared stories with me from Iran about how, during walnut season, everyone would sit around to break and eat them. She explained that by the end, all their hands would be stained black, purple, and orange. In thinking about materials culturally and economically tied to my Iranian heritage, the painting was soaked with a mixture of walnut oil and car oil from used car filters collected from a Mr. Lube recycling bin, the filters of which had economic ties to several art intuitions. Central to this painting is my interest in exploring the ways in which Iranian women’s bodies become materially entangled within the spaces they inhabit and how such entanglements contribute to the exploitation of their bodies.
Sanaz is an Iranian artist born in Tehran. She has always had social and civic concerns in her works and mostly about women. Sanaz was a resident artist in 2010 in Spain, Albacete and has had several group and individual exhibitions in Iran and other countries. Her last exhibition was in Iranian Artists’ forum of Tehran and then e1Gallery in Tehran in September 2022. Recently Sanaz has been working on a comic strips book about social and nightlife in Tehran.
During the process of my work, animal parts were attached to human parts to form a contradictory creature presented as a human which is bound by the limits of the city in a religious country such as Iran.
I started picturing nude female figures in my works last year and after what happened a couple of months later (Mahsa movement in Iran) I was completely surprised looking back and reviewing the pictures I made. Even though some of them (like The Void) were created during that odd social and political experience, I can tell that even before the movement began something was totally changed in me and most of the women I’m connected with. That’s what make this experience more meaningful for me.