‘As sensitive human beings, when we walk through landscapes, it is a procession that is always moving and changing. I love this question of mutation of the view,’ says the artist Eva Nielsen as she guides me through her gorgeous, textural, otherworldly installation Insolare. Created alongside the curator and her longtime collaborator Marianne Derrien, the artwork on exhibit at Grand Palais Éphémère for Paris Photo 2023 explores the impact of human activity on nature. It’s also a very physical installation, performative in that the viewer is tasked to immerse themselves within these collection of artworks, walk between them, observe the various layers, and absorb the less visible marks—the unseen. ‘There is something ephemeral when you walk through these pieces,’ she Nielsen as we peek through one of the semi-transparent artworks. ‘Each layer and each structure are in discussion with the other.’
Upstairs at the Goodman Gallery in London hang large-scale black-and-white photographs of women. Look closer at their naked bodies, parts of which are symbolically covered, and these women of various ages and ethnicities bear signs of abuse and mutilation. Meanwhile, downstairs in the gallery, the video installation tells the stylised, fictional story of a woman struggling with her memories of imprisonment and rape.
‘The Fury’ is the latest body of work by the New York-based Iranian visual artist Shirin Neshat, who, since the 1990s, has captivated viewers — and in some instances caused controversy — through an art that investigates gender and society, time and memory, the individual and the collective, and the complexities and contradictions of Islam, told through a personal and diasporic lens.
Neshat’s mesmerising, cinematic, large-scale black-and-white photography is overlaid with handwritten Farsi calligraphy — poetry, prose — inviting the viewer to read more than the surface image. Likewise, with her feature films and film installations, she has created her own unique moving image language.
‘The Fury’ was shot in June 2022 near Neshat’s Brooklyn studio. In the film, the female protagonist is played by Iranian-American actor Sheila Vand, while the remaining cast are Neshat’s co-students from her African dance class. In the film, dance expresses liberation — it is fundamental to the storytelling. Choreographed by Neshat’s teacher, the climax scene is a stirring ritual of movement expressing protest and rage, performed to the haunting vocals of Tunisian musician Emel Mathlouthi, singing “Soltane Ghalbha” (meaning king of hearts, a heartfelt Iranian love song from 1968), the melody slowed down, and the lyrics retold in Arabic.
I spoke with Shirin Neshat to see what she hopes the viewer will take from this body of work.
Ten wooden sculptures by the German artist Georg Baselitz, each shaped from an individual tree trunk, stand and recline and hover over the daylight-lit rooms of the Serpentine South gallery. Some are enormous, carved with twisting and turning shapes and crude, rough edges. They are at once overpowering yet soft and gentle. And there is humor and humanity in their interactions.
“Georg Baselitz: Sculptures 2011-2015” is the first public showing of this body of work, created between the dates on the title and modelled on himself and his wife Elke, a life-long inspiration and artistic partner, with subjects that reflect on history, personal life, childhood memories. “What is essentially being exhibited is like a cabinet of wonders: a sphere within a sphere within a sphere from a tree trunk with a chainsaw,” says Baselitz of the exhibition.
Two generations of photographers, displayed side-by-side, powerfully capture the lively energy of West Africa. ‘Meeting at the Volta,’ at David Hill Gallery in London, features Sanlé Sory’s gentle studio-shot monochrome portraits of Burkina Faso in the 1960s-80s alongside contemporary photographer Kyle Weeks’ bold and colourful body of work, taken within the last six years on the streets of the Ghanaian capital Accra.
An exhibition opening this October at Flowers Gallery in London looks at the profound challenges facing girls and women affected by war. Organised by War Child UK and curated by intersectional feminist art collective InFems to coincide with the UN International Day of the Girl Child, the ‘Lost Girls’ message is about empowering women in war by focusing on survival rather than victimhood. It marks 30 years since War Child and Flowers Gallery showed their celebrated charity exhibition ‘Little Pieces from Big Stars’.
All the artists represented in the show have put women and girls at the centre of their practice. They include artists and activists Ai Weiwei, Owanto, Tewodros Hagos and Tracey Moffatt, radical British-born American feminist Penelope Slinger, the art-punk pioneer Linder, and Caroline Coon, a counterculture hero since the 1960s.