Shiva Ahmadi’s video animation Lotus begins with a peaceful scene. A central figure sits on a lotus flower in the traditional pose of the Buddha. He has a golden crown, resides on an ornately decorated throne, and is flanked by followers, mostly monkeys and a few humans. His central position and royal iconography show that he is a leader. The monkey followers playfully bounce airy colorful bubbles around. Yet as the scene unfolds, the atmosphere turns from serene to violent. The air bubbles become dangerous grenades, and the ruler’s clothes and face are slowly drenched with blood. Lotus treads the line between beauty and violence, intimacy and pain, innocence and corruption. Ahmadi embraces these moments of tension and conflict. In a recent interview, she remarked, “By making the surface beautiful and shiny, I want to seduce the viewer to get close before revealing the ugly truth.”
Ahamdi was born in Iran a few years before the 1979 Iranian Revolution, and the subsequent Iran-Iraq war framed her childhood. Her work draws from these political events, as well as the perception and portrayal of Iran in Western media. Yet there is an unquestionably universal, timeless quality to her work. She also draws from historical traditions like Persian and Indian miniature painting. This tradition similarly draws viewers in with intricately detailed beauty in order to tell a larger story of power. Ahamdi uses iconic figures like the Buddha as inspiration to shed light on the complexity of political leadership. Although many leaders start with good intentions, corruption and abuse of power sometimes seem inevitable. Using watercolor and embracing tension and contradiction, Ahamdi reveals that the line between good and evil has never been black and white.