Ayyam Gallery Dubai DIFC presents “Migration Stories”, the solo show of Los Angeles-based artist Farzad Kohan. In his latest body of work, Kohan records the experiences of migrants who have resettled in the United States or Europe, mostly from the Middle East. Detailing their stories with text-based paintings that are written in American typewriter font, the artist adopts the role of a documentarian. This is also suggested with the vertical folded canvases of the series, which recall letters or messages that are shared in secret or tucked away for safekeeping.
Kohan sourced the transcribed stories from social media, asking friends, colleagues, and acquaintances to share the crucial moments that defined the process of migration for them. Filmmakers, artists, and scholars are among the over two-dozen people that replied to Kohan’s request. Some responded with partial memories of leaving home as children, while others offered harrowing accounts of fleeing due to political persecution or the outbreak of war. The formal characteristics of each work are tailored to the represent these individual narratives, as thin layers of different media are applied over the surface of the canvas, creating a tactile background that is saturated with colour. Text is then stenciled onto the painting, evoking the fleeting yet assertive nature of anonymous graffiti as Kohan’s respondents disclose their experiences without having to reveal their identities. Multigenerational and from diverse communities, his invisible figures represent a cross-section of today’s ever-increasing migrant population.
The complexities of resettling in a foreign country are further chronicled in form as Kohan uses oil and water based media that separate upon contact. As the artist attempts to bring together these materials, he provides an apt metaphor of the difficulties that are faced by millions who must resettle and reestablish the concept of home in a new place. In many ways, this notion of home shapes a significant portion of the self, and is instrumental to the formation of one’s identity. By mapping their experiences, Kohan paints biographical portraits of uprooted lives.
Kohan’s exhibition coincides with a special programme that is part of Dubai Watch Week, a non-commercial, international event dedicated to the craft and industry of watchmaking. From November 15 until 19, Ayyam Gallery Dubai (DIFC) will host a display that is part of a larger effort to educate the public on the artistry and history of watches. A second opening for Migration Stories will be held on 23 November in conjunction with DIFC’s Art Nights, a biannual event that presents new exhibitions, performances, and art installations.
- Farzad Kohan, Migration Stories # 1, 2016. Courtesy of Ayyam Gallery DIFC.
- Farzad Kohan, Migration Stories # 2, 2016. Courtesy of Ayyam Gallery DIFC.
- Farzad Kohan, Migration Stories # 14, 2016. Courtesy of Ayaan Gallery DIFC.
- Farzad Kohan, Migration Stories # 19, 2016. Courtesy of Ayyam Gallery DIFC.
- Farzad Kohan, Migration Stories # 22, 2016. Courtesy of Ayyam Gallery DIFC.
- Farzad Kohan, Migration Stories # 21, 2016. Courtesy of Ayyam Gallery DIFC.