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Masked Emotions

The young Iranian artist, Atiyyeh Nouri, has tried her hand at many art forms. She has studied film editing, made short films, played in the theatre, and has been a stage and clothes designer, as well as a make-up artist. Side by side with all these activities, she has been painting and drawing professionally since the age of 14, having had her first group exhibition when she was only 15. But now if asked, she introduces herself as a potter and sculptor, adding: “Everything else I have done has just been experimenting.”  

Atiyyeh believes that studying painting and drawing has had a profound impact on the quality of her sculptures, without which her work would have been in some ways flawed. As for pottery, she explains one of the reasons for her attachment to this particular form of the visual arts. Handling, kneading and shaping the clay help her to release her frustrations when faced with current pressures and obstacles. She has held two pottery exhibitions in her workshop during the last two years.

In her third exhibition held recently in Tehran, Atiyyeh has introduced a new dimension to her pottery work, in the shape of clay face masks. She had the feeling that the more conventional forms of pottery do not adequately express what she had in mind. She wanted to emphasize the human aspect of her message by working on a concept directly related to people in general and women in particular. The theme she chose for her face masks was the female characters and heroines of Ferdowsi’s epic poem, the Shahnameh. Through each of these masks, the artist expresses a specific aspect of the restrictions and constraints suffered mainly by women.

One mask represents the mother of a political prisoner, and the next one has a large question mark on her forehead. Two of the masks have their lips sewn up, not being allowed to speak, and there is a lock shutting the mouth of another, the key to which is inside her head. The words ‘pen’ and ‘farewell’ are hanging from either side of another clay face. The place Atiyyeh had chosen for her exhibition was a charming café popular with young people. “I wanted to show these to the girls of my generation, the very same girls who are the subject of my face masks”, she says. 

In this multimedia report we visit this expressive exhibition in the company of Atiyyeh Nouri who describes the idea behind each of these masks.

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