Persian artist Shiva Ahmadi’s paintings explore the powerful and tumultuous intersection of religion and politics, examining the corrupt and cancerous history shared between the East and West. She creates fantastical realms that are suggestive of her own experiences with the destruction and chaos wrought by war. Her faceless, abstract figures inhabit a violent territory, and her scarlet watercolor paint bloodies the canvas. Consistent throughout her pieces are the ornate patterns typically found in the Persian tradition of miniature painting, which she renders in vibrant golds and reds. Ahmadi’s work is in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Asia Society Museum, New York; and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, among others.
Image rights: Courtesy of the artist and Leila Heller Gallery
About Shiva Ahmadi
Shiva Ahmadi updates the Persian tradition of miniature painting in images that critique political and religious powers. Painting primarily in watercolor on paper and aqua board, with ornate floral patterns applied in gold ink, Ahmadi conjures fantastical realms governed by tyrannical rulers and inhabited by animals and hybrid creatures. Drawing on her experiences of the destruction and chaos wrought by war—she lived in Iran during the Iran-Iraq War—Ahmadi populates her paintings with faceless figures brandishing bombs and hand grenades, and maroon splatterings of paint that suggest blood, both of which belie the works’ otherwise decorative visual character. Conveyed with dexterous brushstrokes, her figures also often transmute into abstraction, suggesting the turmoil that can underlie the thin surface of social order. Ahmadi’s work displays the influences of Indian, Persian, and Turkish painting, and comparisons have been drawn with the miniatures of contemporary Pakistani painter Shahzia Sikander.
Iranian, b. 1975, Tehran, Iran, based in California, United States