Billboard Series #06:
Sanam Khatibi

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 colourful, 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 love to the women at night. It is a relationship that 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 are 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.





All images courtesy of the artist
Installation photography: Michiel De Cleene

Billboard Series is a long-term art project in public space, for which every three months an artist is invited to create a new, site-specific work for a 50 m2 billboard on Dok Noord, Ghent. Through changing presentations, Billboard Series wants to build a sustainable and productive dialogue with the surrounding neighbourhood and urban landscape, reflect on the changes that this neighbourhood is currently undergoing, and introduce a broad audience to different visual languages and ways of looking at the world.

Billboard Series is a project of artlead, together with 019. Billboard Series is curated by Thomas Caron, takes place within a scenography by architect Olivier Goethals, and is being developed with the support of the City of Ghent and the Flemish Community.

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