Q&A WITH LAYLI RAKHSHA

9 July – 29 September

Meet Layli Rakhsha as she talks about how and where she gets her inspiration from, and read more about her residency project here at PICA.

Your work is around feelings and ideas about migration and diaspora. Can you tell us a little bit how your migrating experience from Tehran, Iran to Perth, Western Australia has inspired your practice?
Just before I start, I would like to thank Charlotte Hickson the curator at PICA and all the staff for giving me this opportunity to develop my new project at PICA.

Migration usually happens voluntarily or by force. But for me, coming to Australia was neither my choice nor by force; it was my father’s decision. For cultural and traditional reasons, I had no choice but to move to Australia with my family. I had no plan for my future and had no idea what I was going to do with my career when I arrived in Perth in late December 1999. Not realising where I was and how I could start my life left me with fear and uncertainty. I still explore these feelings in my practice. I was 22 years old when I left Tehran to Perth and knew no English at all. Learning the new language was a huge task; it emotionally impacted on my personality and ideas, and socially bounded my communications at the beginning of life in Australia. I reflect and explore my feelings and the impact of migration and displacement that has left me with an ongoing search and investigation about what home means to me in my practice.

 

IMG_0362How did you start creating art; specifically, utilising your specialised medium of screen-printing which you continue to refine and develop?
I was 16 when I decided to be an artist, and I used to focus on drawings. Every day drawing and sketching was part of my daily routines. However, I started making art seriously when I went to ECU to study Bachelor of Visual Arts in 2004. Each moment a new tale is shouting to be told in silence (2006) is my first solo exhibition in Australia.I became interested in screen-printing when I was at ECU. My engagement with the process of screen-printing often reminds me of my experience of migration and the process of adjusting myself to the new place. Through engaging physically and involving myself expressively with the process of screen-printing, I feel silences and pauses that also remind me of the process of learning English, and settling in Australia.

I enjoy screen- printing because I think that I find a similarity between this technique and my everyday routines and household tasks. Whether I am in the kitchen cooking or cleaning, or my studio screen-printing, I feel stillness, silence, and being in a process in which I continuously explore my ideas and repetition. I sometimes feel that I am quiet in this process, and often find myself hiding what I want to say or express or show.
Screen-printing allows me to discover the methodology of repetition that I experience every day.

After completing my artwork Study of home nostalgia in the present (2015), I decided to take further investigation in screen-printing.
I am currently exploring exposing my images on the silkscreen in the sunlight. I do not have access to an exposure machine nor darkroom. I use my garage as my darkroom and my backyard as my exposure room and screen wash area. Sometimes, I have to wait for a sunny day and the right time for exposing, and it is more challenging in winter. It happens that my screen gets overexposed or underexposed in the sun, but I do not mind it. I believe that these accidents are part of my explorations about the relationship between the technique and my idea.

 

You’re currently working on your new project here at PICA called Visible Cities. Can you tell us a little bit about the project?
Visible Cities is a new project that reflects my visual investigation about the relationship between public and private spaces and my everyday routines.
The idea of this project shaped when I was reading the book Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino during my short visit to Melbourne in 2013. During my stay in Melbourne, I read the book and walked for long hours and photographed the streets, the crowd, and people’s movements in the city. I aimed to teach myself how to use my film camera and explore analogue photography and multiple exposures in photography. While exploring double exposure photography, I became interested in whether my movements can leave traces of my personality and feelings in public places. I felt that as I move, I can make invisible prints with my movements in public and shared spaces.

I am currently developing the same idea related to the city of Perth. I am also reading the book A Calvinian Architecture by Domenico De Clario, which has offered me a different perspective and approach to my idea. These two books Invisible Cities and A Calvinian Architecture are indirectly and poetically related together. They are a significant source of inspiration in my project Visible Cities.
I am also exposing my photographs of Perth on the silkscreens in the sunlight in Visible Cities project. I am also using my selected notes about Perth, my feelings and memories about Tehran and Perth that I collected during my PhD research in this project. The printed images of Perth accompanied with my notes reflect my feelings about Perth and visual explorations of the interaction between public and private spaces.

IMG_0368

 

What would be the main things you would like audiences to take away from your work?
I have always been interested in what audiences can take away from my work. It is really hard to say, but I guess that it depends on what they want to take away. They might be interested in the concept of my work or the technique. I would like the audience to see that my works reflect my experience of living here and the impact of cultural differences. I would like them to see that my works echo the sense of limitations that I believe relates to migration and diaspora. I would also like them to feel that my works reflect the sense of doubt and hesitation, a silence and feelings of something unfinished, unsaid and unexpressed that unfolds into nostalgia.

 

In your exhibition, each moment a new tale is shouting to be told in silence, you utilised precious texts by Persian poet Rumi (1207 – 1273) in your work. Are there any other artists who have had a large influence on your work?
Few schools and artists have had significant influences on my works, but I mention two important artists.
Reza Abedini is an Iranian graphic designer who combines simple Islamic patterns and illustrations with Persian calligraphy or typography in his works. The way he explores calligraphy and Persian poetry has always inspired me.
Hossein Valamanesh is another influential artist. His art is about the relationship between Persian poetry and culture, identity and his experiences of a new place. He beautifully and poetically expresses his personal story of migration, memories of the past and his experiences linked to his life in Australia. I interviewed him for my PhD research and analysed some of his works in one of my Thesis chapters called A journey toward home. His works teach me in a way of how to visualize a cultural dialogue between two different cultures, and how poetically explore the philosophical questions; who I am and where I am going.

 

Congratulations on recently becoming a PhD graduate from Curtin University! You have also presented several papers in national and international conferences and have had one of your conference papers published in Indian Ocean Futures: Communities, Suitability, and Security in 2016. With this in mind, how do you perceive the importance of education within the arts?
I think that education within the arts can be beneficial and perhaps necessary in practicing in a specific field of art or for working as an academic in art schools and institutions. I am glad that I took a journey to do my PhD because the research helped me to theoretically search for the answers to my questions, and gave me philosophical and deep insights into my ideas.
Taking research on a specific project, or writing academic papers help me add conceptual layers to my artistic ideas and develop my understanding of the theory, philosophy and aesthetics of arts. Going to the exhibitions, reading articles and essays about arts, even taking residencies can be also part of education within the arts.

 

Image: by Hoda Yazdani

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