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art in public space,

Billboard Series #06: Sanam Khatibi

Sanam Khatibi (IR/BE)

With Tenderness and Longing

05/03/2017 — 05/05/2017




The work of the Iranian-Belgian artist Sanam Khatibi (° 1976, Tehran) explores power structures and primary instincts which are situated on the divide between human and animal. In her paintings, embroidery, tapestries and ceramic sculptures she questions our relationship to excess, loss of control, dominance, submission, and the male-female relationship.


The female figure takes central stage in Khatibi's work. The artist calls these figures 'nymphs', and portrays them naked in Arcadian landscapes. The male figure in these colorful, idyllic landscapes is represented by animals - deer, crocodiles, snakes or lions. The relationship between these male animals and the nude female figures often is one of power: the animals are being ridden or skinned, or make bestial lovecto the women at night. It is a relationship which recalls the one between witches and their faithful animal companions.


The Arcadian landscape and animals are an important part of Khatibi's work. She is inspired by stories of her childhood – such as Shahnameh (the Book of Kings), an epic that was written by  Persian poet Ferdausi around the year 1000 as a collection of poems. The poem tells the mythical story of Iran from the creation of the world, and covers subjects such as the formation of human society, the domestication of animals and the fight against Evil. Another important source of inspiration is Khatibi's family collection, a Wunderkammer-like collection of ethnographic, anthropological and archaeological objects.


For this sixth Billboard Series Sanam Khatibi painted With Tenderness and Longing. In the painting two women are about to skin a hare – flaying stone in hand. They seem to be at it for a while, as a series of recently skinned animals is hanging on a nearby branch. The skins are stored in Chinese ceramic bowls, copies of bowls from the ceramic of the artist's mother. Obviously plenty of parallels can be drawn between these women taking the first step in the domestication and domination of an idyllic landscape and the gentrification of Dok Noord into a new quarter of the city.


The work of Sanam Khatibi was shown internationally in solo exhibitions – most recently at The Cabin, Los Angeles and Super Dakota, Brussels, and in group exhibitions in Vienna, Antwerp, London, Brussels and Milan. Her work was also included in the most recent Belgian Painting Biennial.











All images courtesy of the artist

Photography: Michiel De Cleene


Billboard series is a project by, in collaboration with All Things Contemporary vzw and 019, supported by Stad Gent.



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