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Hayv Kahraman (Iraqi, b. 1981)
Elevated Pursuit
stamped with the artist's monogram (lower left)
oil on linen
84 x 36in. (213.3 x 91.4cm.)
Painted in 2011

Lot Essay

The graceful elongated black-haired woman in Hayv Kahraman's oil on linen painting appears serene yet melancholic. With her stem-shaped legs, her delicate face and her red lips, she stands in a no man's land somewhere between fantasy and reality. She could be stepping out of a Simone de Beauvoir novel, searching for her identity and is thus reminiscent of Hayv Kahraman's life journeys.

Born in Baghdad in 1981, the artist soon fled to Sweden by way of Ethiopia, Yemen and Germany. She then went to study in Florence and finally moved to Arizona in 2007. Her cultural inheritance finds expression in her body of work as her flat figures become timeless. Kahraman's delicate paintings are inspired by Persian and Chinese miniatures, by the Italian Renaissance, by the symbolism of art nouveau, by European surrealism and also by contemporary fashion imagery; her paintings traverse art history to grasp a universal perspective. Indeed, the artist moves away from cultural confinement in her personal life and in her art borrowing from the East and the West to create an indefinite yet precise painterly style.

However, looking closer to the tall swan-like woman, one will see the syringe pointed to her lips. The woman is no longer delicate as she rather turns into a metaphorical representation of human degradation. The elegancy of the figure had led the way to a sense of threat, brutality and agony and while Hayv Kahraman illustrates female oppression, war and violence through her painting, the woman figure turns into an advocate for equality and freedom. Hayv Kahraman's woman is a poetic activist, a beautiful albeit mythical figure who yet suffers from unspeakable injustices. In her Pins and Needles solo exhibition, Hayv Kahraman addressed indeed the surreal significance of the mythical beauty. The woman in her works tried to remove a part of her natural body as if she was intending self-mutilation whilst they remain calm and determined.

The artist often refers to Robert Hughes by saying : 'If art can't tell us about the world we live in then there is not much point in having it'.

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