With an artistic practice spanning drawing, painting, sculpture, and video, artist Shiva Ahmadi references miniature painting as well as the iconography of various religious traditions and contemporary cultural events to narrate universal human conditions. She was born on the eve of the 1979 Iranian Revolution, and the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s defined her childhood. Ahmadi’s personal experience of sociopolitical upheaval is central to her work.

In the animation Ascend (2017), Ahmadi poetically reflects on the ongoing Syrian and global refugee crises, particularly the tragic, iconic image of Alan (Aylan) Kurdi’s body. The toddler drowned off the Turkish coast in September 2015 as his family sought asylum. In the animation, the angel Gabriel carries Kurdi’s body up toward heaven, signaling Ahmadi’s concern for the vulnerable and dispossessed. The layered movements and fluidity of Ascend reflect both the subject and the artist’s skill in bridging the languages of watercolor and animation.

Ascend, along with much of Ahmadi’s recent work, reflects on the tragic social and political upheavals of our contemporary moment. Through eloquent and beautifully told narratives, the artist speaks to the importance of truth and democracy in resisting unbridled power.

Ascend is on view in Shrine Room Projects: Shiva Ahmadi / Genesis Breyer P-Orrdige / Tsherin Sherpa until April 6.

Shiva Ahmadi
Single-channel animation
Courtesy of the artist and Haines Gallery
Additional Information
Rubin Museum of Art