Interview with Reyhaneh Alikhani

Segni di resistenza II, wool, felt, tools of oxidizable material, , 200*200*200, 2021, photo cr. Gaia Rocca

Italian

For the column “on the Fine Art Academy footstep”, I met Reyhaneh Alikhani (Ramsar, Iran, 1985), a student of the MA in Decoration for Architecture at Bologna Fine Art Academy from which she holds a BA in Decoration – Arts and Environment.

In 2018, she won the first prize at the Chieri International Young Fiber Art contest Maria Luisa Sponga Award. Lately, this year she’s been awarded the “Calimata price” at the 11º Valcellina Award.

From here, I’ve started my journey to discover her work.

Trame Pure, kilim weaving, natural wool, Courtesy Reyhaneh Alikhani

One of your latest successes is your work Signs of resistance which won the Calimala prize in the Valcellina Award. Can you tell us about the genesis and meanings of this work?

The idea was born two years ago for an academic project. Then, I felt the need to experiment with new techniques. Since then, I had always approached textile materials by weaving inside different tools (often sharp ones) that basically functioned as looms.

This time I wanted to use felt techniques to create a sheath for sharp and pointed tools. I’ve chosen used objects to deprive them of the function they had up to that moment. After first experimentation, I was attracted by the marks and stains that the metal blades oxide release on the felt sheath. It almost seemed that these marks narrated the secrets of the object.

From here, I developed the project presented at the Valcellina Award. My work, exhibited at the Blacksmith Art and Cutlery museum, which awarded the price, assumed an added value.

Your research ranges through different techniques addressing various topics, but it always remains faithful to the textile medium. When, how and why did you come to use fibres to express yourself?

The effects of immigration are manifold. Before I moved to Italy seven years ago, I’d never used textiles in my practice. Once here, I intuitively searched for a language that connected me back to my homeland, to my family.

The primary material for my weavings is Iranian wool, the one used for woven kilim.

The contact with this material gives me a sense of serenity. Moreover, textile works’ extended and slow times allow me to better express myself and my personality. For example, I could never work with a colour that dries in 5 minutes. Or the clay that dries up after a while. I need time, and textiles allow me to respect my time.

Segni di resistenza, wool, felt, knives and saws, 160*30*20, 2020

You are coming from Persia but currently living and studying in Italy. How do these two cultures come together in your work?

I try to deal with both universal and personal topics that have touched my life and my family. I do this using a language tightly related to my background. The broad reach of the themes I deal with makes my works conceptually understandable to people from different cultures, even distant from mine. The use of the kilim is a technique that recalls my roots and makes my art more appealing for a western than a Middle Eastern viewer. Usually, it is what we don’t know that makes us curious.

Indelebile, Courtesy Reyhaneh Alikhani

What are the recurring themes and instances you deal with in your work? And what are your sources of inspiration?

Nature, in all its forms, has always been my primary source of inspiration. After my first works, I noticed that the readings I gave to my art and the viewers were different.

They often found an element of reflection on women, their problems and their lives.

Investigating within myself, I realised that, unconsciously, I have always been very sensible towards female psychology and their universe. Lately, I’ve consciously highlighted these concepts in a specific work.

As you said before, you appreciate textile techniques that require long times, slow rhythms and repetitive gestures. In your opinion, is this more of a limitation or an advantage?

It is both a limitation and an advantage. An advantage, as it allows you to experience a long-term evolving experience within the same work. On the other hand, it can be a limitation because often the woven pieces are abandoned. At a certain point, we change, and the work in progress no longer represents us. Another downside is that the times it takes to realise the artwork do not coincide with the times of the current art system.

Trame, 2018-2019, kilim weaving, natural wool, various types of saws, 180*80*4, Courtesy Reyhaneh Alikhani

We are currently living in changing and uncertain times. In your opinion, what role should art and the artist take in these critical times?

I believe that, in the age of fast changes, revolutionary technology and lack of time, art allows people to escape, even if for an instant, from the “bubble” which is full of themselves. I think that the role of art is, today, to make us stop and reflect, multiply our points of view.

What are the projects on your horizon? And what dreams do you have for the future? 

If I have to be honest, first I’d like to finish the studies I have undertaken, and then I would like to become a professional artist.

I am still searching for a solid artistic language that represents me. I would like to loosen my inhibitions in my personal creative expression. I try to become more and more aware of what I do. To date, it often happens that other people understand me better than myself and, consequently, understand my works better than I can. So, my wish for the future is to acquire a greater and deeper awareness of myself and my art.

PUNTO E A CAPO, wool, Kilim weaving, 140*77*4, 2021, Courtesy Reyhaneh Alikhani