AISHA KHALID, Comforter, 2008, quilt and needles, 190 × 265 × 12 cm. Courtesy Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde, Dubai. 

Domestic Affairs

Gallery Isabelle Van Den Eynde
Iran Pakistan United Arab Emirates

For Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde’s summer exhibition, “Domestic Affairs,” five artists from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Pakistan and Iran take the materiality of textile as their departure point in an exploration of the personal, the everyday and the nostalgic. 

Lahore-born Aisha Khalid’s vibrant red quilt-work immediately grabs one’s attention upon entering the gallery. Appearing to hover above the floor, Comforter (2008) creates a juxtaposition between the heavy fabric and the illusion of its weightlessness. One of Pakistan’s leading contemporary artists, Khalid works in a variety of media—ranging from miniature paintings to large-scale installations—exploring sociopolitical issues such as gender, domesticity and power dynamics between people. Comforter is inspired by the regional tradition of a daughter receiving a wedding dowry from her family as she marries into that of her prospective husband. Two quilts are joined together with sewing needles instead of with stitches; the unnaturally joined quilt serves as a metaphor for the practice of arranged marriages and the coming together of two individuals who are made to forge a partnership despite unfamiliarity and discomfort.

Along a nearby wall, Iranian artist Zahra Imani renders real-life moments into imagined scenarios through four large textile works made up of various pieces of fabric. In the Gallery (2015) illustrates female patrons observing portraits of seated high-society women, whilst in the foreground of the work, a young boy is unashamedly peeking under a woman’s dress. For Imani, textile holds a significant personal importance beyond its primary role in our daily lives; her mother created small sewn toys and objects when the artist was a child and her father was a professional shoemaker—fabric, therefore, is deeply and intimately rooted in her upbringing. Elsewhere, taking a different approach toward the influence of familial life, Iranian artist Sara Rahmanian presents a series of acrylic paintings on both paper and canvas, which delves deeper into the nostalgic subconscious and nuances of one’s childhood. Thickly layered ink and acrylic gives a depth to simple compositions, such as mother and child in Infantile Spasm (2016) or a hand holding a small foot in Fearless (2016).

ZAHRA IMANI, In the Gallery, 2015, textile and picot on linen, 192 × 257 cm. Courtesy Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde, Dubai.

Tehran-based Nargess Hashemi, on the other hand, explores her familial culture with a sense of detachment, as an observer of traditions and customs. In her practice, Hashemi studies the various layers of domestic life, illustrating them through mixed-media drawings. Two untitled works from 2010 portray family gatherings drawn with a permanent marker on transparent plastic, which is then layered atop fabric with trimmings and sequins—one in gold and one in pink. In several other works, Hashemi layers tracing paper on top of various strands of colored yarn. In the Company of Colourful Threads (2015) shows a woman kneeling on the floor sweeping the carpet. The pen drawing is stapled on top of yarn that is attached to the background, expressing what Hashemi perceives as the multitude layering of life.  

NARGESS HASHEMI, In the Company of Colourful Threads, 2015, pen on tracing paper, yarn and staples on paper, 35 × 50 cm. Courtesy Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde, Dubai. 

KHALID AL-BANNA, Wedding 02, 2016, fabric, beads and glitter on wooden board, d: 100 cm. Courtesy Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde, Dubai. 

In the work of Emirati artist Khalid al-Banna, abstract collages made from swaths of fabric come together to blend material from the past and the present. The vibrant colors of Wedding 01 and Wedding 02 (both 2016) reference the traditional souks from the UAE and evoke nostalgia for customs lost, while at the same time the heightened hues and busy configuration bring attention to the glitz that has come as a result of the country’s quickly modernizing landscape.

“Domestic Affairs” explores the intimate and the personal across a broad spectrum of experiences in daily life, from clashes between traditional and modern affairs to how textile is embedded in and informs our everyday occurrences.

 “Domestic Affairs” is on view at Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde, Dubai, until September 8, 2016.