The following is a Q&A done via email with one of this month’s featured artists, Shahla Abdi. Please check back for more Q&A’s with the rest of our featured artists in the New Faces, New Prints exhibition. Also, be sure to come in and see the show. Preview pictures coming soon!
WPG: Your work has an interesting combination of Western figure drawing and Eastern decorative arts. What led you to this combination of imagery?
ABDI: For me, there is such an emotional intensity (subtle as it may be) to the complexity, discipline, and rigidity of mosaic tile patterns and the intricate natural forms that they are inspired by. I see in such complex pattern the potential to convey a certain state of mind–whether it be exuberance, bewilderment, meditation, sorrow, etc, or a combination of any or all of these. So when in my work, the figure becomes enveloped in the pattern, I have come to see the pattern and the figure as two equal parts of a cohesive image conveying a certain psychological experience.
WPG: You use the term “nostalgia of diaspora” in your artist statement. Could you explain a little bit about what this is and how it relates to your multi-cultural influences?
ABDI:When I talk about the “nostalgia of diaspora”, I am referring to the experience of the expatriate. Although I am not an expatriate myself, I can deduce from my observations of my father and from my conversations with other expatriates that the expatriate experience can be disorienting and bittersweet because it exists within a liminal space. This is especially true when the decision to leave one’s homeland is based predominantly on extreme circumstances rather than solely on independent choice. One can alternately feel as though one lives in two places simultaneously (new home and homeland) and in no place at all. An interesting problem arises when an expatriate who leaves his homeland during adulthood has stayed away for an extended period of time. The unsettling sensation of living “in between” places, or in no place at all begins to set in. The expatriate no longer knows his homeland because it has changed so much from the time he left it. As for his relationship with his new home, any true sense of familiarity with it always seems to elude him since there is an endless array of pop culture references that he has yet to acquaint himself with as a result of never growing up there.
WPG: As a young artist (Shahla won the Excellence in Printmaking Award this year, recently completing her BFA and now in her Masters Studies), how do you see your work progressing in the future? Any new routes that have interested you lately?
ABDI: I am incredibly fortunate to be pursuing my graduate studies in New York City. Needless to say, here I am surrounded by many many people who are conscious of and excited about the fact that their sense of place and cultural identity is dynamic and changing all the time. Over the month and a half that I’ve lived here, I’ve had the pleasure of engaging in countless conversations on exactly this topic, and this has been incredibly refreshing. I’m sure that the discoveries that come from these and future conversations will inform and develop the multivalent nature of my work as it pertains to continuing a visual dialogue on cultural identity.