When I met her for the first time for lunch, it seemed like Hayv Kehraman has stepped out of one of her paintings. Her art is about herself, her past, her training and education, her vision and ideas. Her background is reflected in her art: a mixture of East (Iraq) and West (Sweden and the USA).
For a long time, I have been fascinated by the preciousness of the details and the richness of the materials she uses in her work. She paints on canvas, a rich natural beige color linen. She also has selected wood, always a very fine wood because she paints what appears to be a very fine veneer of oil and the wood appears in all its beauty and veins in the unpainted areas.
Like pre-Renaissance frescos, there is no perspective or background in her art. Only the women in their two dimensionality, reclined and often occupied grooming themselves. Almost always, the women, single or multiplied, quasi prototypes of each other, wearing various motifs on their flamboyant drapes. The precious materials and the details in the attire remind me of Renaissance women.
But these women all have jet black hair and turkic features. The painting technique can seem "japonisant", and the subjects resemble Persian miniatures. However, the closer you look at the women's accessories, the more they look modern.
In her latest show, "Pins and Needles", at the Third Line gallery in Dubai, (which represents Hayv Kahraman), there is a a series of beautiful oils, representing women at play. Each painting reflects a single game, ones we still play today. Take the portrait of a woman with interlinked elastics, her fingers intertwined in them. She is all facial expression. A Middle Eastern version of Amelie Nothomb, a startled look on her face. I had the opportunity to share that analogy with the artist. She smiled in surprise as she didn't know the Belgian writer.
Another canvas has a small number of women playing sticks and needles. I was surprised that this very Western game was being played by women in traditional Eastern looking garb. The painter had painted elements of her own Western childhood and I appreciated the autobiographical note.
My favorite piece was an enormous painting on "wood puzzle". This piece is composed of wooden square panels that can slide, because there is a panel that is removed, allowing the other ones to be scrambled. However the painting, seen intact, is an assembly of women, performing very intimate gestures of grooming. The female intimacy and communion reminded me thematically and in composition to Nazif Topçuoğlu, whose photograph you can see below.
|Hayv Kahraman, Appearance of Control, 2010 Oil on wooden panels [slidding puzzle]168 x 247 x 12 cm|
|The Red Apple, by Nazif Topçuoğlu|