Shirana Shahbazi - Still Life with Shells

Stilleben 26, Shirana Shahbazi
Stilleben 26, Shirana Shahbazi

27 September 2008 - 18 January 2009

The internationally active visual artist Shirana Shahbazi (b. Iran, 1974) has this week been putting the finishing touches to the construction of her ‘Still Life with Shells’ installation in Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen remodelled entrance foyer. Inspired by the Old Masters, including masterpieces in the museum’s permanent collection, Shahbazi breathes a whole new lease of life into art-historical themes and iconographies. She stages and rearranges still lifes, which she photographs and subsequently translates into paintings and installations. Setting these still lifes against a striking background gives them a contemporary twist that has a startling impact.

In her installations Shirana Shahbazi employs art historical subjects and iconographies as her thematic material, imbuing with novel connotations by means of a highly specific transpositional process and in essence updates them. In part following the example of the Old Masters, she rearranges and stages still lifes, which she photographs and re-translates into the painterly medium or develops them into spatial installations in combination with her photos.

Still Life with Shells
In the inaugural presentation in the Willem van der Vorm Gallery at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Shirana Shahbazi takes the painting Still Life with Shells by Balthasar van der Ast (1593-1657) as one of her founts of inspiration. Modelled in part after Van der Ast, the still life created by Shahbazi was subsequently rendered by a billboard painter. At each stage in the process, the atmosphere of the image shifts further away from that of the original, producing a radically alienating effect.
The ‘Still Life with Shells’ installation presents a carefully chosen combination of paintings and photographs, the various motifs being interpreted in accordance with their respective mediative qualities. Motifs such as skulls, shells and fruit feature often in Shahbazi’s work. The artist estranges these symbols from their usual context and allows the pictorial quality to assume greater prominence. Set against pitch-black or brightly coloured backgrounds, these fruit, butterflies and skulls are wrested from their real-life context and imbued with a highly distinctive character.

Shirana Shahbazi
Visual artist Shirana Shahbazi lives and works in Switzerland. She established her international reputation with presentations at the Venice Biennale (2003) and the Berlin Biennial (2006). Solo exhibitions of her work have been staged at the Bonner Kunstverein (2002), the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago (2003), the Centre d’Art Contemporain in Geneva (2005), at the Barbican Art Centre in London (2007) and elsewhere.

The ‘Still Life with Shells’ installation by Shirana Shahbazi has been realised thanks to the support of the H+F Patronage scheme and is freely accessible.