Soheila Sokhanvari - Rebel Rebel at The Curve, Barbican Centre

Another #ArtThursday means another exhibition! For this week's feature we checked out the new Soheila Sokhanvari, "Rebel Rebel" show at the Barbican Centre.


Soheila Sokhanvari is a British/Iranian artist, whose multimedia work cultivates a non-uniform practice and her works deal with contemporary political landscape with a focus on pre-revolutionary Iran of 1979. 

"Rebel Rebel" is an exhibition that opened in October at the Barbican with a focus on female Iranian actresses. The showcase pays tribute to the courage of these stars that challenged their traditions by appearing on screen in a Western style that went against their usual traditions.
Upon entry of the exhibition, you are welcomed by Sokhanvari’s mirrored monolith. It takes inspiration from the mysterious form in Stanley Kubrick’s sci-fi classic 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). As you enter you are welcomed into a world in which painting, sculpture and sound combine to induce an equivalent kind of feminist delirium.
One example of the controversy of these films caused, is when Iranian actress Roohangiz Saminejad starred in the film The Lor Girl,  the first Persian ‘talkie’. The film had to be shot in Bombay because it was too controversial for an Iranian woman to appear in public without a veil. The movie ended up being a box office hit but Saminejad suffered a lot of harassment afterwards resulting in a change of name and having to live in  anonymity for the rest of her life!

Saminejad's portrait is the first on show of 28 women depicted by Soheila Sokhanvari who has painted each of theses extraordinary women in jewel-like miniatures. 

The miniature paintings employ the traditional technique of egg tempera on calf vellum by grinding colour pigments so in effect they are comparable to modern illuminations. These works are set against epic, hand-painted murals along the 90-metre wall that reference traditional Islamic patterns, designed to dizzy the beholder so that they could contemplate the vastness of the universe and the greatness of God.


The soundscape, which weaves together the voices of iconic performers including Googoosh and Ramesh, is especially poignant since it remains illegal in Iran for a woman to sing in public. Sokhanvari herself fled to the UK as a child, a year before the Pahlavi regime was overthrown; now a studio artist at Wysing Arts Centre, she works every day on representing poetically the complexities of life in pre-revolutionary Iran.



Because these women and their creative lives were not always valued, their stories have been difficult to trace. The Barbican curators worked with Soheila, the women who are still alive, and surviving family members, to gather the information offered at the exhibition.

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