Iranian-American artist Tala Madani constructs absurd, lucid, and fictional worlds abundant with faceless characters and dysmorphic bodies, brimming with transgressions and perturbing narratives.
Returning to London for her first solo exhibition in five years, the artist is showing across two of Pilar Corrias's locations, Skid Mark on Eastcastle Street (4 June–10 July 2021) and Chalk Mark (8 July–8 September 2021), the latter inaugurating their newly opened gallery space on Savile Row.
Born in Tehran and now based in Los Angeles, Madani is celebrated for her humorous and excoriating paintings tackling themes such as patriarchal society, fragile masculinity, and motherhood.
Recent provocative works incorporate representations of bodily fluids like semen, faeces, and urine, all of which are abundant in Skid Mark. Among these, a monumental painting depicting a ceiling fan, Fan Hang (2021), appears to be propelling excrement around the gallery itself.
In Shit Mom (Wood Worship) (2021), a smeary brown mother figure is painted directly onto an unprimed wood panel, creating a trompe-l'œil effect. Part of Madani's 'Shit Moms' series, the work responds to the pressures, expectations, and societal critiques of motherhood.
Describing her recognisable and approachable graphic style, Madani once told Ocula Magazine, 'the reason I paint in a comic style is to lessen the intensity of the subject matter so that it becomes rawer and more palatable both on the canvas and to the viewer. It is also a subversive way of rendering difficult subject matters in painting.'
Another standout work, Babyocracy I (2021), reenvisions the U.S. Capitol storming in January 2021. Crawling, zombie-like male figures are seen climbing over the iconic brown furniture and blue carpet in the senate chamber.
Political transgression and consciousness-raising are crucial to Madani, who recently explained on her personal migrant status in the Financial Times, '[Emigrant artists] don't dare to challenge their own consciousness because they have to first clarify their past. And their work becomes conservative by default.'
One of Madani's earlier paintings, Making Faces (2008), features in Epic Iran, the highly anticipated Victoria and Albert Museum exhibition exploring 5,000 years of Iranian culture.
Depicting a male figure preaching into a classroom chalkboard, the work exemplifies the artist's interrogation into the creation of histories, materially and conceptually echoing works in Chalk Mark such as Blackboard (Salutations) and Perfect Copy II (both 2021).
Last year, she won the Smithsonian American Art Museum's James Dicke Contemporary Artist Prize, and the Guggenheim, New York, acquired a painting from Madani's 'Shit Moms' series.
Both these shows follow many major institutional solo exhibitions, most recently at Start Museum, Shanghai (2020); Mori Art Museum, Tokyo; Vienna Secession, Vienna; and Portikus, Frankfurt (all 2019). Madani is due to receive an important mid-career survey in her hometown at MOCA LA, Los Angeles, in 2022. —[O]
Main image: Tala Madani, Babyocracy I (2021). Oil on linen. 43.8 x 50.8 x 2.5 cm. Courtesy the artist and Pilar Corrias, London.