Artist’s Proof is pleased to announce the exhibition, Melding Worlds: A Collection of Paintings by Saya Behnam. The opening reception will be held on May 31, 2017, from 7-9 pm at Artist’s Proof located at 1533 Wisconsin Ave NW, Washington D.C 20007. The artist will be giving a short talk and conducting a session on her style of painting during the opening reception. The exhibition will close on June 25, 2017.
Iranian artist Sayeh ‘Saya’ Behnam works combine two rich artistic heritages; of eastern painting traditions and western artistic philosophies. Behnam’s use of Farsi, a traditional mode predominantly reserved for religious scripture most often by men, explores the potential of calligraphy as an art form, reinterpreting it through the eyes and hands of a female painter. Born and raised in Tehran, Behnam grew up in a time of political turmoil and transition in Iran. This led her to start using art as a point of meditation and as a tool to cope with those changes and move beyond.
Central to her art is the abstract gestural style that she employs; much inspired by Abstract Expressionism and Chinese calligraphy as practiced by the Chinese literati. Furthermore she incorporates natural elements of Persian origins, such as gold leaf, spices and florals such as borage, saffron and tea. Down to the organic elements she uses to create her vibrant paintings and the act of painting itself, Behnam activates all the senses, awakening a deep connection to the past and the feeling of being present and in the moment. By merging these three distinct cultures, she attempts to articulate the universality of art and the importance of acceptance and introspection while engaging in action - in Behnam’s case, even the act of a painting a line on a canvas.
Behnam, who has a degree in Biology (Botany) from Tehran University, understands the unique biological make up of the natural elements she utilizes, as well as the cultural importance behind them. Behaving differently than synthetic paints, the importance of time greatly weighs into her process of creating the various pigments and the various techniques of application. These organic elements create different shades of color based on how long they are left in water. The dripping colors, natural shapes and layered transparency in her work allows each layer to be appreciated uniquely. Stretching across the paper, immersed in the harmony and balance of the curves, Behnam accentuates Farsi script’s tendency towards natural forms combined with the application of these organic materials.
Consumed by the importance of Time, Behnam’s use of organic materials is a continuation of those ideals. There is a sense of unity and commonality between the materials and the viewer. Behnam repeats the words hasti (to be) and hastam (I am). These conjugations of “being” visually connect to the other elements in Behnam’s work. Combined with Chinese calligraphy aesthetics, Behnam captures the exaggerated elements of Chinese composition and brush work, with the organic qualities of the Persian language.
With over 25 years of experience, Saya Behnam’s work explores the multi faceted approach to exploring eastern and western cultures.
SAFFRON, TEA, AND SPICE SERIES
The series “Saffron, Tea, and Spice Series” goes into the essence and truth of who Behnam is as a living being. The artist uses such natural dry mediums as saffron, hibiscus, borage tea, henna, and coffee to create her colors. These dried herbs and spices are steeped in hot water until they create the tones that the artist wishes to use. As Saya applies each color layer with Chinese brushes, a chemical interaction with the previous color layer occurs, creating further nuances of delicate tones. This process creates an element of uncertainty with all the possibilities of colors as they mix; yet the artist is in control as well.
A primary element in this series is saffron, an ancient Iranian spice that comes from a gorgeous purple flower painstakingly propagated and harvested by hand, and only the morning it blooms. Like gold, saffron is precious; fragile, and known throughout history for its physical healing properties, it is the world’s costliest spice. After gently grinding the stigmas, Saya softly blows them across her painted surface, still moist with receptivity. Here her very breath has become part of the creative process, employing its power to create as well as document its fragile substance… its ephemeral essence. Flowing out from this supporting breath, the Saffron is free to momentarily soar and land wherever it will. As the artist through her breath marries the saffron and tea, the paper now bears witness to this moment of actual life as it is lived in the absolute present, and creates an intimate representation of her being-ness.
“My work of art literally becomes a testament to an ever so brief, but therefore precious moment of my life…my sacred life.”
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