ARTIST TALK: MAHYA AMINI, 2020 MFA

Meet Mahya Amini, a figure painter who explores “how people may look or feel inside.” She believes that humans are shaped in childhood through experiences and encounters with cultural traditions, institutions and family relationships. Amini recontextualizes her childhood memories, feelings and mental states through a tactile practice of painting, often using her hands rather than brushes. Driven by the process of recreating experience rather than reaching visual conclusions, Amini looks to artists like Anslem Kiefer, stating “Kiefer is free…he cares less about the outcome and more about the process.” 

For Battin’ A Hundred Mahya Amini created the installation Dard (Persian for pain). A large scroll hangs from the wall and unfurls onto the floor. The immense scale emphasizes the enormity of childhood illusions and portrays the artist’s internal reality when recalling contradictory familial and cultural “TRUTHS.” Francis Bacon (artist favorite) stated “If you want to convey fact, this can only ever be done through a form of distortion. You must distort to transform what is called appearance into image.” Like Bacon, Amini seeks to capture realities, or “facts” by distorting her faces and figures to reveal what is typically only sensed. Images are placed in a matrix of scribbled text and ghostly forms that emerge and disappear into the background. Strange legless characters crowd the painting yet seem alone as if each were orbiting around a distinct memory.   

Nearby, Amini places an oversized manuscript suggesting the scale and weight of historical wisdom. Although the book, protected and cradled in a stand, alludes to religious texts, the double folio opens to a fragmented portrait and floating faces with wide-open eyes. Like Anselm Kiefer, who expresses myths and memory through a range of allusions and forms, Amini draws on Persian forms of knowledge and personal memory as a catalyst to express her narrative.  Amini integrates a repertoire of images into historical frameworks as a way to make sense of her world and answer questions between what is seen and what is known.

Fun facts about Mayha Amini: She was born and raised in Tehran, Iran. She has a degree in industrial economics but decided to pursue a lifelong dream of becoming a painter and children’s book illustrator. She is currently working on her first book!

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