Soheila Esfahani is a Waterloo-based artist who works with found objects and familiar images to create artworks that explore cultural translation, third space, post-colonial discourse, and otherness. Born in Iran and emigrating to Canada in the 1990s, Esfahani identifies as neither Iranian nor Canadian but somewhere in-between (a third space), where identity is negotiated and cultural borders are fluid. Inspired by souvenirs and seeing them as a form of ‘portable and collectable culture, Esfahani's newest body of work, Been T[here] uses stereotypical Canadian and Iranian cultural motifs to challenge the idea of a static identity, suggesting that identity is constantly being negotiated, informed by our lived experiences and interactions.
Works by Virgil Baruchel, Millie Chen, Ruth Cuthand, Soheila Esfahani, Ed Pien, Tazeen Qayyum & Shaheer Zazai
Ornamental Gestures brings together artists who work in beading, calligraphy, wallpaper, visual motifs, and rug design and production. They take contemporary approaches to artmaking methods traditional to their cultural heritages, and push their mediums into new territories that play with scale, context, process, and material. Their works challenge the distinction between art and craft, and occupy a space between contemporary art and cultural tradition. The exhibition is an invitation to slow down, observe, and contemplate artworks that are at once decorative, fantastical, and critical.
The artists in Ornamental Gestures engage with and practice crafts as a means to connect to their heritage and push back against the way it has been historically represented. They reclaim their cultural traditions and embrace the creative practices that remain on the periphery of objects, spaces, and critical theory. The tangible manifestations of their cultures speak to a connectedness and longing for one’s ancestry through material object. The luminous works in the exhibition, painstakingly created by the artists, go beyond the notion of ornament to confront colonial and capitalistic mindsets. Through nuanced approaches to engaging with processes and materials that have been historically referenced as ornamental, they produce a new visual vernacular.
Like Soheila’s Facebook Page
or Follow Soheila on Instagram @soheila.esfahani
to receive updates on her upcoming projects and exhibitions.
Soheila would like to thank the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts for their generous support of her artistic practice.