Nazanin Afshar

More from John Pohl, Special to Montreal Gazette
Published on: June 4, 2015

Visual arts: IranianCanadian
artists look for
meaning in lives split in two

Artists Nazanin Afshar, left, Maryam Izadifard, Ronak Kordestani Mehrnaz and Tanbakoosaz at Galerie Mekic in
Montreal, on Friday, May 29, 2015.
Peter McCabe / Montreal Gazette

Selfies are cellphone selfimages that celebrate the moment, but for the Iranianborn artists exhibiting at the Galerie Mekic, the selfie becomes a life history.

And that instant, which is usually a “look-at-what-I’m-doing” moment, becomes an occasion for self-introspection in the responses of the 13 artists participating in Selfie.The artists, most of whom are under 35 and have come to Canada as young adults, reflect on lives that have been marked by rupture.The young artists I talked to used the selfie image — or the concept of it — as a starting point to explore their own life history. Four of them are women in their early to mid-30s, educated in Iran and who have been in Montreal for a few years, working hard to adapt to their new home and break into the Montreal art scene.The Mekic gallery is a launchpad for them, but it also provides a cultural home away from home. The gallery, along with bookstore and library in the backrooms, is a community centre for the Iranian community in Montreal. It’s a hospitable place for non-Iranians as well, and visitors are offered tea.…Nazanin Afshar’s triptych starts off with an image transfer in acrylic of what she considers her first selfie, made 15 years ago, before the term was invented. In the middle is a painted selfie, in which she used her cellphone as a mirror to see herself. The shadows, forms and colours evoke the image from 2000, but also reflect how she plays with those elements as an artist. “With a selfie, you look into the phone as a mirror,” Afshar said. “It’s not a memento, but a photo of you looking for an audience.” The third section is a mirror, “ the eye I use to see you,” she said.The proliferation of digital picture-taking devices and images on the Internet is the subject of this year’s Mois de la Photo, which opens Sept. 10 at the Parisian Laundry. The selfie is a big part of The Post-Photographic Condition, the title given to the event by curator Joan Fontcuberta.The line between image and event is blurred, Fontcuberta writes, and every canon of photography is challenged, including authorship of the image.Jon Rafman, whose exhibition of works based on images found on the Internet opens June 20 at the Musée d’art contemporain, comes to mind when Fontcuberta writes that “assignment of meaning to the image prevails over production of the image.”This exhibition at Mekic is a tip of the photographic iceberg, worth seeing in the context of what’s coming up this summer in Montreal. And tea is served.Selfie continues to July 14 at Mekic, 4438 de la Roche St. Information: (