04 Apr 2022
Areez Katki’s intricate embroideries and earthen sculpture adds rich family narrative and insight into Persian cultural history to There is no other home but this exhibition.
Areez Katki’s new works for the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery exhibition There is no other home but this present an embracing installation of new poetic embroideries alongside a sculptural earthen work to offer an intense response to experiences of displacement from social and cultural homelands. Together these works evoke the artist’s ongoing research into Persian history in combination with narratives of family memory and pursuit of an affective biographical expression.
Suspended above the heads of viewers, fifteen new embroideries include images of family possessions from the domestic space, references to Zoroastrian rituals, and iconic Persian objects with symbols from episodes in the artist’s memory, placed amid fields of coloured sewn ‘gestures’ which often reflect his mother’s stenography exercises.
Areez’s Parsi ancestors were followers of the prophet Zoroaster (or Zarathustra), emigrating to India to avoid persecution by Muslims. His diasporic life between the family home in Mumbai and Aotearoa is redolent in his work, as is his admiration for the embroidery that was a highly regarded art form in Persia, embroidered textiles being key markers of cultural identity and tradition in Persia and in Parsi households to this day.
Passionate about the needlework techniques learnt from the matriarchal side of his family - his maternal grandmother and her best friend ‘Aunt Dolly’ - from a young age, Areez’s research has also taken him to Iran, Gujarat and West Azerbaijan following Parsi and Zoroastrian sites and traditions. However, in place of sumptuous Parsi textiles, the ground for his notational style of embroidery comprises a medley of everyday fabrics: khatka dust cloths, tea towels, doilies, rugs and khadi handkerchiefs evoking domestic realms and private lives.
Areez has described the new series ‘Murmuration’ as a sort of way of giving freedom to the many things that hang heavy on the migrant and colonial mind in their hybrid experience. The act of floating these hand-worked cloths suggests the gentle ascent of symbols from a memory bank. Queering hetero and patriarchal hegemonies in destabilising sacred and quotidian icons in this way is also part of the artist’s attempt to pluralise experiences of home, and social and cultural expectations on behaviour.
Persian society is today largely known through fragments held in museums or the many forms of mytho-historical story reproductions. Areez’s adobe brick installation beneath the murmuration of cloths similarly evokes an architectural remnant as a sign for the endurance of the artist and his matriarchal family. Adobe brick construction, attuned to Zoroastrian ecological values, was significant across and beyond Persian civilisations for hundreds of years until cities like Persepolis - a city noteworthy for the ziggurat form - were excavated and looted by European and other forces. Areez quietly reclaims the memory of this architecture and its painted and carved narrative friezes - atop the adobe pile sit five parcels of land, wrapped in embroidered cloth representing specific women in the artist’s family: Dolly (Aunty), Thrity (Grandmother), Yasmin (Mother) and Delzin (sister). Areez joins them in an embroidered fifth block, gently creating a familial, embracing connection to earth that these individuals have never collectively experienced despite their shared cultural heritage.