the storyteller

Soheila Sokhanvari

06.09.11 – 20.09.11

La Scatola Gallery is pleased to present The Storyteller, a culmination of seven months of Soheila Sokhanvari‘s negotiation of timeless tales and modern obstacles. The Storyteller, Soheila Sokhanvari’s first solo show.

Born in Iran, Sokhanvari’s practice has evolved just as tumultuously as the country of her birth, which plays a primary role in her work. Whilst positioning herself adamantly within Iran’s rich traditions, her work also asserts itself in the nation’s current political discourse that is as taboo as it is inescapable.

In her refusal to distinguish the extraordinary from the everyday, Sokhanvari embraces the magic of reality. In a realm where the supernatural coexists with the pedestrian, she sets her contemporary stories in the script of a fluid history. Borrowing from the 10th Century collection One Thousand and One Nights as much as she takes from the serpentine plot of current events, Sokhanvari situates her work in the context of magical realism. As such, each piece relies on its internal elements to present an external work that supersedes the rigid constraints of a reality that often ignores its mystic potential.

In her use of metaphor as a means of conversing with the unspeakable, Sokhanvari gives voice to political topics otherwise suppressed by subjugation. Like Shahrzad, the legendary Persian Queen and narrator-heroine of the stories framed within One Thousand and One Nights, Sokhanvari uses allegory to both suspend the impending and provoke the impossible. Seamlessly weaving her stories into age- old allegories, and vice-versa, she presents a stilled horse as the metonymous representative of centuries of violent racings, and a rug hung heavy with the weight of corruption as the representative of docked, flying carpets.

Sokhanvari’s titles, rather than strict directives of the work, act as invitations to investigate, compelling her audience to take as active a role as they wish in decoding each piece. As such, the viewer becomes a modern character amongst timeless narratives, with YouTube and Google assuming Shahrzad’s role as storyteller.

Sokhanvari uses taxidermy to highlight the role of death within life, of the supernatural within the natural. By stripping a horse of its innate inclination to gallop wild and cementing its form within an artificial moulding, Sokhanvari illuminates the impositions placed upon the organic spirit by the conditions of life. Likewise, she dispossesses a carpet of its natural, horizontal position and re- imagines its dangling, portrait potential as a way of invoking both the promise and disillusion bound up in illusions.

Immediately arresting in their formal, stunning presentation, the true promise of Sokhanvari’s work wrestles just beneath its surface. What remains is a world of Sokhanvari’s creation, a simulacrum of fantasy and fact, one that allows her a direct communication with a reality that is both too magical to fathom and too momentous to ignore.

Sokhanvari completed a postgraduate diploma in Fine Art at Chelsea College of Art & Design, London before going to Goldsmiths College, University of London, where she was awarded an MA in Fine Art Practice.

An exhibition curated by Valentina Fois.
Words: Chris Piegza

Tuesday 06.09.11
6 – 8.30pm

Pictures by Robb Slamm