Hayv Kahraman’s solo exhibition at the De La Warr Pavilion will be the artist’s first in a UK public gallery. Her work explores her experience of living between Western and Middle Eastern cultures: having fled Iraq with her family aged 11 during the first Gulf War as part of the Kurdish mass exodus, the artist migrated to Europe and now lives in the USA. A female figure recurs in her work, representing shared histories between women – particularly women of colour – and building on personal histories of migration.
‘My figures are extensions of my own body blended with the aesthetics of the renaissance. “She” actually emerged when I was in Florence, Italy. I went to every single museum, did copies of old master paintings and was engulfed by the technique of that era. “Her” emergence, her white diaphanous flesh, her contrapposto, was an embodiment of someone who was colonised; someone who was taught to believe that European art history was the ultimate ideal. She became an expression of whom I had become as an assimilated woman. I’m now working to give her agency and a voice and as I obsessively repaint her again and again, she becomes part of a collective. I am concerned with the multitude not the self. This is not only my story. It can be the story of more than 5 million people within the Iraqi diaspora or any diaspora.’ – Hayv Kahraman, Glass Magazine, 2016
To depict this figure, Kahraman ‘steals’ techniques from across art history, including European Renaissance painting, Persian miniatures and Japanese woodblock prints. Blurring aesthetics of Western and Middle Eastern cultures, her paintings reveal the complex lived experience of migrants.
Displaced Choreographies will combine paintings, drawings and new sculptural works in order to show the breadth of Kahraman’s practice. On the occasion of the exhibition’s opening, Gendering Memories of Iraq will be presented: a performance of a script written by Kahraman that is both personal and part of a collective memory.
Kahraman was shortlisted for the 2018 and 2011 Jameel Prizes at the V&A Museum, and received the ‘Excellence in Cultural Creativity’ award at the Global Thinkers Forum, 2014. Recent solo exhibitions include Silence is Gold, Susanne Vielmetter, Los Angeles (2018); Acts of Reparation, Contemporary Art Museum, St Louis (2017); Re-Weaving Migrant Inscriptions, Jack Shainman Gallery, New York (2017); Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha (2016). Recent group exhibitions include Jameel Prize 5, V&A Museum, London (2018); The Fabric of Felicity, Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow (2018); Dreamers Awake, White Cube, London (2017); No Man’s Land: Women Artists from the Rubell Family Collection, Miami (2015); June: A Painting Show, Sadie Coles HQ, London (2015).