September 15 - November 13, 2016
Soheila Esfahani’s work touches on her experience growing up in Iran, and her later experience living in Canada, and reflects the artist’s continued interest in cultural translation and explores the processes involved in cultural transfer and transformation.
In her current work she specifically addresses the tensions that emerge from trying to integrate one culture within another. Esfahani’s concerns are familiar to translators of poetry and to the generations of immigrant that populate our country: the struggle to be understood is peppered with assumptions and misguided metaphors.
One of her pieces in the show focuses specifically on poetry as the pinnacle of difficult translation. Here Esfahani works with a poem by Nokyoung Xayasane, an emerging Canadian poet whose words “clang harsh” against the sacrifices that cultural integration demand. She then takes these texts and filters them through software to create deliberately quirky renditions of the originals. From English to Farsi to Google to automated calligraphy, much is altered. The resulting printouts are a hybrid between images and text.
Almost 100 years ago Walter Benjamin highlighted the task of the translator as not simply conversion, but rather the creation of reasonable equivalents. More recently Homi Bhabba defined the Third Space as a position that is occupied by individuals who have left one place but are not yet completely at home in another.
Esfahani’s work often reveals a meditative, repetitious quality. Numerous, small wooden panels that comprise the Made in Iran series use laser cutting to create arabesque designs depicting various versions of a lotus leaf. The same series introduces familiar patterns, such as those found in William Morris wallpaper or Canadian graffiti.
Esfahani approaches the challenges of inter-cultural experience as an artistic inspiration. She explains that there is an advantage to not being stable, and the resulting creative challenge is source of productivity.
A special thank you goes to Canadian Heritage, the J.P. Bickell Foundation, Reliance Printing and Aldersley Securities.
Kitchener based artist Soheila Esfahani grew up in Tehran, Iran, and moved to Canada in 1992. She received her Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Western Ontario and her BA in Fine Arts from the University of Waterloo. She is a recipient of grants from the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Ontario Arts Council, and the Region of Waterloo Arts Fund. As part of the SSHRCC grant, Esfahani participated in a research/creation group entitled Immersion Emergencies and Possible Worlds: Engaging Water as Culture and Resource through Contemporary Art. Esfahani’s work is represented in public and private collections including the Canada Council’s Art Bank.