Canadian-Iranian artist Nik Nejad is so passionate about the way in which his art is received that he decided to go past local galleries to organise his first solo show himself. ‘It takes a long time to get a solo exhibition,’ he says. ‘It’s my debut, so I wanted it to be all on my own terms. I wanted to have a lot of control over the space and the way viewers experience it.’ The 28-year-old artist had already been selling to private buyers for five years, but decided to take matters into his own hands and fund a space on his own.
That space is 8th Street Studio in Al Quoz, although viewers must be quick if they want to glimpse the large-scale works in ‘Versions of Her’ – the exhibition only runs from Tuesday December 18 to Sunday December 25. It features paintings as well as two video installations, which ask questions about the way beauty and femininity are perceived in modern society. ‘It’s more me asking questions about the topic, rather than making a grand statement,’ says Nejad. ‘It centres on how femininity has been perceived, the role that femininity and gender have played in society in the past, the role they play now and, more so, in the future.’
Nejad has been living in Dubai on and off for the past 15 years. He says he’s long been fascinated by femininity, especially the ways in which ancient cultures revered their women much more than they do today. But he found he could never quite grasp what were, at that time, just abstract thoughts. It wasn’t until he got his hands on a novel suggested by a friend that he was able to solidify his thoughts and the questions he wanted to ask about the subject. ‘I was inspired by a book written by Philip Wylie, called The Disappearance. In the book, Wylie talks about how all the men in the world vanish one day, and what ensues from there. It’s all about how gender roles are re-aligned without the other gender there.’
On one hand, his videos use fashion shows to explore the concept of hyper-femininity. ‘I like to dissect and defragment an image of beauty, to find that defining point when something goes from being normal or ugly to being beautiful,’ he says. However, on the other, his paintings use layering and prominent linear strokes to show the layers of a person and tackle issues of science. ‘It comes down to the way I believe beauty is perceived. The human eye can only really focus on one very small point at a time. When you’re seeing something, it’s actually that point moving around rapidly. I use those lines in a way to guide and direct the eye and your mind. I believe that when your brain perceives something as beautiful, it’s actually the journey the eye takes in an image.’
Exhibition: ‘Versions of Her’ until December 25 at 8th Street Studio, Building 20, Al Quoz 1 (04 330 7878).
Artist: Nik Nejad.
Price of works: From Dhs12,000.