Mendes Wood DM is proud to present a first solo exhibition of new works by Sanam Khatibi in our new Sao Paulo gallery space.
Khatibi’s work, which is primarily painting and drawing-based but also expands to include sculpture and installation, draws on a multi-cultural pantheon of art-historical references and imagery which the artist combines to great effect, provoking intriguing and unexpected narratives to emerge from her carefully constructed and magically symbolic compositions.
Three new large-scale works, in oil and pencil on canvas, dominate the exhibition, one of which lends its title to the show: In my dreams, I kill him every night. At once Naive, but with an alluring sense of Magical Realism and the Medieval violence of Hieronymus Bosch, the giant figures in these works appear as grand visions of both destructive and seductive female power. The nude, oversized women that dominate Khatibi’s edenic but otherworldly landscapes are either engaged in acts of cannibalism or in playful acts of seduction, perhaps, although all is not quite as it seems in these compositions. Painted in miniature on the ground next to each of these figures, are what appear to be Still-Life compositions of objects that function as libations, offerings of some kind, that follow no specific religion or set of beliefs, rendered almost in a Flemish Golden Age painterly style. Pristine, detailed, lifelike, and yet strangely enigmatic in their relationships between one another, these objects include human bones, vases and pottery from various historical periods, from ancient Greece to Imperial China, bowls of fruit and flowers, dead and living animals.
The effect of this arcane and symbolic imagery hints perhaps at deeper layers of meaning that can be teased out further but never fully answered by the mysterious, tongue-in-cheek and often subversive titles that punctuate the exhibition, such as Nothing will please me more, or She used to give these marvelous lavish parties. Showing alongside the large-scale paintings is a series of smaller oil-on-panel works that seem to pick up on the visual cues left behind by the miniature libations that accompany each of the large female figures. Smaller in scale, but with the subject painted relatively larger, this series of Still-Life works sheds more questions, arguably, than each work can answer. Each composition is obscured by its own title and then illuminated by a light source that solidifies each object against a deep, black background. These compositions shine with metaphysical accuracy and enigma, and recall Flemish memento mori paintings, but offer no simplistic frame of reference (nor should they, really), that can tie together the meanings suggested (but not asserted) by the various combinations of vases, flowers, snakes, birds, seashells and human bones in each work.
Presented with these paintings is a table installation of ceramic vases with small sculptures in clay, plastic and resin, from ceremonial totems and objets, to snakes and skulls. Almost like her fantastical landscapes rendered in three dimensions, this Wunderkammer-like agglomeration of ethnographic artefacts, both real and imagined, serves almost as a meditative springboard from which the viewer can begin assembling and metabolising the various signs and symbols of Khatibi’s universe before finding them again in her paintings.
Sanam Khatibi (Tehran, 1979) lives and works in Brussels.
Recent solo shows include Lemon Drizzle, Groeninge Museum, Bruges (2021); Cyanide, rodolphe janssen, Brussels (2021); Cruelest of the seas, Kunsthal Gent, Ghent (2021); An Hour Before the Devil Fell, P.P.O.W, New York (2019); De ta salive qui mord, Musée d’art de la Province de Hainaut, BPS22, Charleroi (2019). Group shows include The Natural World, Alexander Berggruen, New York (2022); Modern Love or Love in the Age of Cold Intimacies, Centraal Museum, Utrecht (2021); One Way or Another, S.M.A.K., Gent (2021); Paradise, Biennial of Kortrijk, Gent (2021); Beyond the Looking Glass, UTA Artist Space, Los Angeles (2021); The Shameful Kiss, Kunstverein Dresden, Dresden (2020); Tear of Eros, Centraal Museum, Utrecht (2020); The Seventh Continent, 16th Istanbul Biennial, Istanbul (2019); Salon de Peinture, M HKA, Museum of Contemporary Art Antwerp, Antwerp (2019); Nightfall, Mendes Wood DM, Brussels (2018).