March 19, 2012 Sara Rahbar – “Restless Violence”
19th of March – 04th of May 2012
Carbon 12 is delighted to announce its second solo exhibition with Sara Rahbar. The artist will present 10 new works, from two new series, “War” and “Confession of a sinner”.
Born in 1976 in Tehran, Rahbar has established herself as one of the most promising artists of the 21st century with her very unique aesthetic approach; using vintage textiles and collected objects in her compositions.
Cultural memory and ideological symbols are remixed with a very direct, physical approach, deconstructing personal history and historic momentum alike, crossing the borders of imagination and the imagined, raw and honest. The material itself gets to speak. There is no mediation or transition, but a direct dialogue, reflecting on aspiration and tragedy, the battlefields of mankind and human nature itself.
The titles of her works deserve special attention; every title a short poem, filled with a sharp sense of German Romanticism, brushing against love and death in a spiral of hope and fear.
Her works are held in many prestigious collections worldwide including the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Saatchi Collection in London, The Burger Collection in Hong Kong, the Devi Art Foundation in Gurgaon, India, The Taiwan National Museum of Fine Arts, Salsali Private Museum in Dubai, and The Farook Collection in Dubai.
A book of her two recent series, “Confessions of a sinner” and “War”, featuring a conversation with gallerist Kourosh Nouri, will be published for this exhibition.
Conversation between the gallerist, Kourosh Nouri and the artist, Sara Rahbar.
Kourosh Nouri: Here we are with your second solo exhibition at Carbon 12. Intriguingly, “Restless Violence” is the title of the show. For the first time we are showing a completely new body of work and really leaving your famous flags behind. Tell me about the show.
Sara Rahbar: The title of the show comes straight from my current state of mind; straight from my life. I am incredibly restless at the moment and my life has become more and more jagged and aggressive. Everything around me has become so violent, brash, and rough around the edges, and that’s how the work is beginning to look; more and more brutal and harsh.
“Confessions of a sinner” and “War” are two very important series for me, emotionally, contextually, and medium-wise. I am confessing my deepest and darkest secrets, thoughts, memories; and specifically through “Confessions”, I am saying things that I cannot say out loud. It’s all pouring out without any constraints or restrictions. It is my own private catharsis.
Sara: How do you feel about the two new series; “War” and “Confessions”? What’s your take on these two new bodies of work?
Kourosh: Every single artwork has layers and layers, containing so much depth. It’s very impressive, considering that we (the gallery) have an almost carnal relationship with your works. From the moment we open a crate to the point we hang them on the walls. We keep on touching the works; bringing the objects into the right position. The physical contact with the works is amazing, so real that I sometimes feel we are part of the work.
To come to the body of work, the consistency is amazing. It feels like a visual symphony where every note is in the right place. The other element, by which I was impressed by, is the violence of the series. Each individual work is a punch; though aesthetically, the compositions are flawless.
I personally enjoy the universal language of the works, specifically for the region we are in. You have been using so many “global” themes such as violence, anonymity of the individual, contemporary slavery, and fear of war in your works; but despite the blows, every artwork is aesthetically magnificent.
I am so delighted to present this show in the gallery. We are really thankful to you!
Kourosh: If you recall, some time ago, I was talking to an art enthusiast about your works. In the conversation I was trying to explain the concept of objects-trouvés versus collected-objects, and the work “Neo-Neo-Dada” entered the discussion. How do you feel about the “abusive simplification” of your work I dared to make in my talk with the art enthusiast?
Sara: I’ve had issues with labels and the labeling of things all my life, from nationalities to religion. Over and over again I have taken on various terms and identities that felt like heavy baggage I’ve had to carry around with me for years. It felt unnecessary and unwanted, like a stamp on my forehead. Athough I kind of like these terms, “collected-objects” and “Neo-Neo-Dada”, still I would rather avoid them, as I feel that the labeling of things put limits and restraints on them. I believe that good work, really good work, moves us beyond words.
Sara: How do you feel about the “abusive simplification” of art in general these days. Categorizing and selecting due to political climates, regions, and popularity contests. Do you think that the art world is becoming more and more like our governments — corrupt, chaotic, and elitist, here to serve and represent only a select few?
Koursh: As a gallery and personally, we want to escape the boredom and stay as far as possible from the mainstream! Our work is very close to our heart; therefore we want to make sure we have a Program with a capital P! With the Middle East being an emerging art scene, it is our duty to have a comprehensive program, and try to present our artists in a very exciting manner. You know it so well. In the past three years, almost all our exhibitions have been totally new in the region and each approach was a “first-timer”.
I have a very positive vision of the art world in general… There are many galleries around the world representing fabulous artists and having great programs. I don’t think the bad-seeds should be highlighted. An excellent example is working with you, for instance. So far, we have done 4 shows together (2 solo shows and 2 group exhibitions), and as you know, we want to keep our exhibitions simple but genuine, and we believe in the fact that the artwork should do the “talking”. You know my opinion about the over-intellectualization of contemporary art… we are in visual arts and the content is just one layer of the many layers of an artwork.
Kourosh: As your gallerist, we experience an aesthetic departure from more “attractive” works like flags to more brutal, three-dimensional, and symmetrical compositions. Tell me more about the evolution of your work, from the “Flag” series to the “War” and “Confessions of a sinner” series. How would you explain that specifically to someone who discovers your work in 2012?
Sara: From the outside it may appear that the transition from “Flags” to “War”, and then to “Confessions” was rash and harsh, but for me it was a very organic transition, a very natural evolution and growth. I go wherever the work takes me.
Specifically as far as the materials go, I was beginning to feel like I was hitting a brick wall and I wanted to break it down to see what was on the other side. Every time I am in a transition of some sort, the brick wall comes in front of me. It feels heavy and challenging, sometimes dark and very uncertain. All I do know for sure, is that I need to break through something when it feels that heavy. In order to do that I just need to keep going and trust my instincts. There is always something new to discover on the other side!
Kourosh: The multi-layered compositions also carry many symbolical icons, one of the most recurrent being the crucifix. In a work like “Restless Violence” you have made the crucified Jesus as the center of the composition. Tell me more about the iconography in your approach. I can pose you the same question about the gas masks, various tools, and especially bullets in so many different calibers.
Sara: I don’t consciously choose and decide to work with symbolic and iconic objects. When I am selecting materials, and start working on a piece I’m in a different space, I’m in my own head, lost in my own private world. I don’t think, I just obsessively collect, imagine, and make. It’s such an instinctive thing for me; it’s not logical or planned out. I select objects that trigger something within me that move me beyond explanation. I select materials and objects that I am so passionate about that I have to have them. It’s either a wedding or a funeral with me, I love it or hate it, and I’m usually very clear on which one it is.
As far as materials go, specifically with “War” and “Confessions”, unexpectedly but at the same time very naturally, the objects have completely taken over. The work has become very sculptural and has come off the wall in some cases. The conversations, as well as appearances, have changed.
With the flags there were a few objects here and there, but it was mainly a textile-based series. With “War” and “Confessions”, I work with a very wide range of found objects, such as straitjackets, bronze Jesus Christ figures, wooden batons, saddle stirrups, muzzles, obstetrical forceps, bayonets, army canteens, bullets, various badges (police, military), gun holsters, whips, ammo pouches, back braces, knives, guns, gas masks, and the list goes on and on. I love working with and collecting these aggressive harsh objects and materials. They capture the brutality, the violence, and aggression of life that I want to show.
Kourosh: Being the one facing collectors/curators/journalists, very often I have been asked about the harshness of your works. Once even the strange, however interesting comment “surgical museum material” was made. I have also heard many strange comparisons. The best I have ever heard from a very notorious art critic, was the comparison with Rauschenberg. How do you place yourself? How would you like to be mentioned/cited as a 21st Century artist?
Sara: When I think about my favorite artists, the one thing that comes to my mind immediately is the work. Sometimes it’s a very specific piece and sometimes it’s an entire body of work but it’s always and foremost about the work. Work that has moved me beyond logic, language, and reason; that has stained my memory for a lifetime.
That’s how I want to be remembered; by the works I leave behind, which I dedicated a lifetime to make. I never think about the labels, the identifications, or the understanding of why it is or what it is. Good work just is and there is no explaining it, as hard as we do try. As for me, I have an undying need to make it, to see it, and to spend my entire life amongst and around it. It’s my entire life, everything else is a distraction. I only hope to be able to make a dent; to be able to move people beyond words; to stain as many memories as possible.
Kourosh: I want to discuss something more general with you… What have you learned in the past years in the art scene?
Sara: I can think of 3 things:
A man walks up to a woman and asks, “Would you sleep with me for $1,000,000?” She quickly replies, “Yes”. Then he asks, “Would you sleep with me for $20?” Astounded by the question she says, “Of course not. What kind of woman do you think I am?” He says, “Well we’ve already determined that. Now I’m just working on the price.”
“We never really grow up; we only learn how to act in public.”
“Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.”
The way that I see it is that there is no right or wrong; there is no such thing as “perfection” and “the only way to do it”. Anything goes in this world and specifically in the art world. I’m not here to follow any rule book of what’s good and what’s bad. I’m here for the freedom and the unlimited possibility of things. Shit happens every day. The point is to keep going and not get stopped by it. I have no regrets.
Kourosh: As your gallerist, we are the most involved with your creations. Our strong belief in your talent and your works, we sometimes tend to project our “wishes” without daring to mention them to you. In the past three years, I have always been positively surprised by the diversity of your works, despite the high consistency. How do you manage to catch us off-guard each time? How do you see the evolution of your work in the next two years?
Sara: My life has been one continuous surprise party after another, so I stopped pretending to have it all figured out a long time ago. I’m not attempting to control the beast anymore, because the more I try to control it, the more it winds up controlling me, so I’m just letting it be a beast. I don’t need to know why or for how long; I have stopped trying to explain, analyze, and understand it. I’ll just keep doing it for as long as I possibly can. I haven’t a clue what will happen to me in two years time, let alone the work. I’m not even sure I will still be here. The only thing I can tell you about is the next piece I’m working on, that’s what keeps me going and that’s as far ahead as I will let myself plan.
Kourosh: It’s hard to believe that you do one work at a time, the new body of work is so consistent.
Sara: I can work on a few pieces at a time but I image them one at a time. When an idea enters my mind, it consumes me until it’s in some shape or form begging to be made. I still obsess over it compulsively until it’s finished but then at least I can begin on something new as well. I never think “I need to be consistent”, it just sort of happens that way when my mind is working impulsively and instinctively.
Kourosh: Tell me about the relationship between the artist and the audience. How can an audience with completely different backgrounds understand autobiographical works. Is the artist concerned about misconceptions or misunderstandings?
Sara: I personally don’t think about things like this at all and especially when I’m making the work. I don’t think about anything else but that idea that needs to leave my mind and take form in the materials and objects before me. The rest is out of my mind and out of my hands.
I also think that when we are honest, nakedly honest, and sharing our basic human emotions and feeling; ideas and emotions become borderless. That’s how things like group therapy work. Everyone has had very private and personal experiences but when they share them out loud in a room filled with a bunch of complete strangers, there is an unexplainable relatedness that everyone in the room feels. You wind up feeling less isolated and less alone. Sometimes even feel closeness to the person that is sharing that was a perfect stranger to you a minute ago. When we share and are honest and vulnerable, when we are just being human, there is a borderless relatedness.
Kourosh: We, at Carbon 12 look upon you as one of the “core” artists of the gallery. Your evolution has been essential to our evolution and in a way, you and Carbon 12, started almost at the same time. We consider ourselves as a 100% artist-oriented gallery and we always strive to head in that direction. How do you see yourself in the Carbon 12 constellation?
Sara: I am deeply and truly happy with our relationship and so very grateful to be working with two people that I love and respect so very much! I am Carbon 12’s biggest fan; the strong gallery program, the extreme professionalism, I love the way you guys work! I love the understanding, trust, and respect that we have for one another. You know and understand my work and what my goals are. We are on the same page heading for the same horizon, what more can I ask for. I am proud and honored to be a part of your constellation!