Tanya Leighton is proud to present Altered Future, a selection of new paintings, drawings and sculptures by artists from the gallery’s programme. Our present reality has taken a counterfactual turn. We are made unavoidably aware that the course of world events can be unexpectedly diverted, and that even apparently singular events are differently experienced by communities and consciousnesses. In Altered Future, intergenerational artistic voices reflect upon fragility, daring to imagine new landscapes of labour, desire, identity and community. The artworks are contextualised and elaborated through short videos and commissioned texts by art historians and critics including Shiva Balaghi, Sonja-Maria Borstner and Sabrina Tarasoff.
In the quiet solitude of her Berlin studio, Sara Issakharian turns her paintings into a kind of theatrical stage. The city is in lockdown because of a global pandemic, and winter has turned the light grey. Unsettling stories on the news and in conversations with friends and family in Iran fuel her imagination. She dips her brush into bright reds and oranges, creating sweeping gestural brush strokes on large canvasses.
“There is a hidden anger,” Issakharian explains. “There’s an energy that needs to burst onto the canvas. Red creates an immediate mood, a visual confrontation.” Against this background of swirling colour, she uses charcoal to sketch snarling wolves, galloping horses, slithering snakes, and swans breaking into song. The subject matter is so visceral, so difficult, that she turns to allegory, using animals to depict visual narratives of social violence. She leaves voids of emptiness in the paintings because so many of these stories remain invisible.
“When it comes to questions of gender-based harassment, repression and violence so much remains unseen and unknown. Each story has so many sides, so many dimensions,” Issakharian says. She wanted to convey this sensibility in her paintings. So she washed some of her canvasses, the water fading away some of the paint and revealing layered subtleties in the work. She covered other paintings with aggressive strokes of dark charcoal or a whitewashing effect, leaving only some elements exposed.
For Issakharian, form itself becomes a kind of resistance. The effect is one of contrast between the visible and the hidden, between darkness and light. “The canvasses depict social violence as a kind of war,” she says quietly. “I haven’t decided who is winning. I’m just showing a confrontation whose outcome remains unresolved.”
– Dr. Shiva Balaghi
Sara Issakharian (born in Tehran in 1983) completed her MFA in painting at the New York Academy of Art in 2015. She was awarded the 2014 inaugural New York Academy of Art Residency in Moscow, Russia, and in 2015 she was part of the first-round award winners of the Art Olympia prize, Japan. Issakharian’s work was exhibited in Art Basel Miami Beach in 2019. Her work is included in collections in London, Tokyo, Tehran and the United States.
Tanya Leighton will debut Issakharian’s work at Art Basel in Switzerland in September 2021, prior to hosting her first solo exhibition in Los Angeles shortly thereafter.