We went to visit Nastaran Safai who is currently artist in residence at AB Gallery in Lucerne. Think curled locks, curvy walk, sugary voice. Yet her artwork is severe, in your face, but so honest. It’s personal. Really personal. For the work she is making during her residency, she has been taking plaster casts of her own body. They will form the parts of her installation work. Here is a picture of the work in progress:
I want to call Nastaran’s work feminist. I know these days it’s not so popular, but I think with all this of booty bouncing, boobs pushing, flesh showing excess, it is all the more relevant right now. Katharina Fritsch is using “feminist” to describe her massive blue sculpture “Cock” in London’s Trafalgar Square – if she can, then we can.
I sat down with Nastaran who told me about her work, herself, her time in Switzerland and her residency at AB Gallery. She is a prolific artist with a complex body of work.
Simorgh, 2014, the installation of chicken-like characters – almost a complete cabaret act.
Red Shoe, 2010, the oversized distorted female red high heel shoe. Painful, but disturbingly humorous.
Flying, 2014, the winged single breast. Romantic, funny, Roman and contemporary all at once.
On her work Bride, 2011, she explains how the father of a friend had to shut down his textile factory in Yazd due to cheaper imports from China. “It was a sad experience and his daughter invited me to create art work there with her. The bride’s trail was 4.5 meters and lead the viewer into the factory to discover the successful suicide of the bride.”
On the subject of brides, Nastaran goes on to tell me that in her work Marriage Proposal, 2010, the bride’s head appears on the tea serving tray, poking humour at the first step of a traditional Iranian marriage, the Khastegari, where the groom to be and his parents assess a girl’s home-keeping skill by how she serves tea.
As an artist who often makes complex tactile pieces, I asked her what her favourite objects or possessions are. She tells me of her hoarding habits, of how objects tell her stories, and of her love for feathers which she collects and is always delighted to find.
This reminds me of her series Purses where she explores the content of the female handbag. Each unique and each so telling about its owner.
I try to discover more about the person behind these often controversial pieces. I Ask her about herself. Refreshingly, she brings it back to basics. No long monologue, not an existential reference in sight: “I have had good times and bad times. Just like anyone else. But I generally enjoy life. I try to eat well, live well. But generally I very much enjoy spending time alone, going to the Bazar, long walks, spending time with my plants.”
Finishing off with her views her residency at AB Gallery in Switzerland: “I always write my hopes and dreams on paper. Being in the environment provided here, and the peace and solace it provides me, was very high on my list. It really helps me focus. I am am really very happy here.”
Nastaran speaks of her work with clarity, she speaks of herself with clarity, she tells it like it is. For an audience willing to face the truth, the honesty in Nastaran’s work makes it both comforting and reassuring. Her work reminds us that in the end, we are all in it together.