Some Comments on Empty and Full
Artist Laleh Khorramian makes clear visual references to the landscape and to oil as a natural resource. Many Iranian artists, like Khorramian, are interested in the long relationship of the region and indeed the country with oil, both as a catalyst for political upheaval and foreign intervention as it has been, and as a source of wealth and as a local resource. Khorramian’s works are titled in a way that points to a seismic shift in perception, for while advertising and the media would have us believe that wealth will make us feel full (satisfied), the bitter truth is that instead we’re mostly faced with a well of emptiness after spending a lifetime pursuing wealth and fame, even before we consider what we have done to others and to the landscape in this pursuit. The titles are of course, also a play on the often used terms empty tank, and full tank of petrol. Many economists and environmentalists say that we are running on empty as far as resources are concerned, or in time left to reverse climate change after years of pollution. Oil is the ever reoccuring source at the core of most of these problems of pollution, and it comes in various guises. While Khorramian’s work speaks of decay, it is of course plastic, an oil derivative, that is the one material that does not decay within the natural order of growth and decay, clogging drains and water ways, killing fish and sea mammals that ingest it, lining land fill and turning what started out as a natural paradise into a tip.
This might sound far-fetched as far as interpreting meaning in modern art goes, until you see her earlier works: Eden – 1st Generation.
Small details of pink and blue suggest scenic trees and vibrant water, yet the main is dry, distorted, even missing.
Khorramian intimates that we have burned a hole in Eden. Or perhaps is it a space, suggestion of an opportunity that we can yet create and fill, or even leave fallow in order to allow nature to fill it effortlessly, as it once did?
Another strength in Khorramian’s works is that stylistically several are reminiscent, in a rather Bosch-ian manner, of traditional coffee house paintings, an integral part of the history of public art in Iran, in Ghahve-khanes (coffeee houses). These paintings were used as a guide for a narrative storyteller, a Nagal, who would animate the canvas for those who would listen into a tale with heros, heroines, devils and jinns. Yet who is telling the story here, and who are the characters? Khorramian only suggests shapes, and has supplied no narrative, other than the visual prompt. As onlookers, it must be our task then to relate the tales we see before us, and if so – what tale would we have to tell? What legacy are we leaving the inheritors of our own stories, stories in which we’ve played a part?