This presentation highlights a lesser-known facet of Farideh Lashai’s practice: her work as a crystal designer and glass artist. On display is a constellation of twenty-eight silkscreens, faithful posthumous reproductions of her sketches and studies for crystal and ceramic design at Riedel and Rosenthal Studios in the 1960s. Complementing these silkscreens are twelve Rosenthal ceramic vases designed by Lashai during the same period, originating from a private collection. The exhibition concludes with two seminal video paintings from her Rabbit in Wonderland series, offering insights into the works created in the last decade of her life, when her seemingly silent gestural abstract paintings become charged with political, whimsical poetic narratives, bringing her role as an abstract painter and experimenter with new technologies closer to her persona as a politically engaged intellectual, writer and thinker.
In her celebrated career spanning five decades, Lashai was primarily known as a painter and yet she consistently played with varying means of expression without recognizing any frontiers that would confine her to a rigid identity. Lyricism is the prevailing characteristic in her work across mediums, whether it is painting, sculpture, writing, installation or a combination of animation and painting.
Lashai was born in Rasht, Iran, and at eighteen she left for Europe where she studied German studies at Goethe University Frankfurt, and later glass and crystal design at the Academy of Applied Arts, Vienna. In 1966 she went to work at Riedel Studio in Austria. Two years later, she had her first exhibition as a designer alongside Claus Riedel in Milan, while concurrently working as a designer at Rosenthal Studios in Bavaria. These vases, along with the silkscreen portfolio based on sketches and studies at the heart of this presentation are traces of that period and are foundational to Lashai’s artistic career. In a biographical piece, Negar Azimi describes the lucent quality of the original vases “as a harbinger of later paintings to come, where very often an ethereal, almost translucent presence is juxtaposed to a heavier one.” The same delicate experimentation with material continues in the interplay of the ephemeral, semi-transparent quality of video projection contrasting with the opacity of painting.
In addition to being a published poet, Lashai translated seven books, including three works by the German playwright Bertolt Brecht. In 2003 her best seller auto-fiction Shal Bamu, or The Jackal Came, was published in Iran, narrating the lives of three generations of women against the sociopolitical background of Iranian society. Their multi-generational reckoning with political unrest in the past century in Iran is seen through the lens of immigration and return during the Iran-Iraq war and critics have described her prose as a genre between painting and essay. In her 2013 Art Forum Online eulogy, Media Farzin writes: “Shal Bamu is a story about matrilineal memory within patriarchal society. Lashai was born into a prominent family from northern Iran, and her book traces their entanglement in nearly every political uprising of the past century”
“‘I didn’t want this [bloody line of history] to pass from me to my daughter,’ Lashai wrote. ‘I wanted it to end with my generation; I wanted the next to give their hearts away freely—to not have their sleep disturbed, like mine, with the memory of a body dancing on the gallows, fragments of an image once reflected in my mother’s eyes.’”
In her celebrated career spanning five decades, Lashai was primarily known as a painter and yet she consistently played with varying means of expression without recognizing any frontiers that would confine her to a rigidly defined identity. Lyricism is the prevailing characteristic in her work across mediums, whether it is painting, sculpture, writing, installation or a combination of animation and painting.
Farideh Lashai was born in Rasht, Iran, and at eighteen she left for Europe where she studied German studies at Goethe University Frankfurt, and later glass design at the Academy of Applied Arts, Vienna. In 1966 she began working at Riedel Studio in Austria. Her multidisciplinary practice as a painter, sculptor, and writer flourished over her five-decade career, establishing her as one of Iran’s most foremost and prolific contemporary artists. Lashai has been widely exhibited internationally, at the Biennale of Sydney, Moscow Biennale, and “The Spark is You” curated by Dr. Ziba Ardalan as a collateral event of the Venice Biennale, to name a few, and numerous museum presentations. Posthumously, her work was subject of two retrospectives Towards the ineffable: Farideh Lashai, curated by Germano Celant and Faryar Javaherian at the TMoCA in 2015, and Farideh Lashai, a major retrospective curated by Hoor Al Qasimi at the Sharjah Art Foundation in 2016. In 2017, a three-museum project, placing the work of Lashai alongside the work of Francisco Goya, was organized between the Museum of Fine Art Ghent (MSK, Ghent), Museo Nacional del Prado and the British Museum. Her works can be found in major private and public collections such as the collections of Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles County Museum (LACMA), Centre Georges Pompidou, The British Museum, Sharjah Art Foundation, National Museum of Jordan and National Museum of Fine Arts, La Valetta, amongst others.