Her art examines the horrors of war and the Iraqi culture in which she grew up, but most of all, it sheds light on what it means to be a woman. Inspired by Art Nouveau, Japanese prints, Persian miniature painting and fashion iconography, Hayv Kahraman’s paintings are, at once, an exploration of how the artist sees herself and an extension of how her consciousness envelops the collectivity of women she portrays. She is one, but she is all – each woman she renders is a self-portrait.
At times, Kahraman’s art turns abruptly violent, like in her drawings depicting honor killings – women hung in trees for having brought shame on their families. Most of the time, however, the oppression she explores is related to the lengths women have to go in order to feel part of society, by embracing the beauty aesthetics dictated by fashion.
There is a sense of commiseration in these paintings, women bonding over their constant, arduous efforts to conform. It’s another kind of death, just not as graphic, physical and sudden as an honor killing.
Prompted by a Facebook quiz she came across one night, her series of paintings How Iraqi are you? depicts women listening and conversing, illustrations accompanying the text of gruesome war anecdotes, which mix despair with dark humor. Perhaps it is a reference to women’s passivity, since they’re never the subject themselves of these anecdotes. Or better yet, it’s a remark on how women are not to blame for wars and endless violence. Nevertheless, this juxtaposition between the women the artist presents and the war-related texts creates a great dissonance that leaves viewers wondering. For this series Kahraman resorted to her childhood memories of growing up during the Iran – Iraq War, but the message she delivers is just as relevant today.
“Curfew” text translation: A man joins the security forces in Iraq. He is given a gun and tasked to enforce a curfew at 11 pm, and to shoot anyone out at that time. At 10 pm, he sees a man and shoots him. His superior asks him why, as it is not yet 11. He replies, ‘oh, I know that man – there’s no way he would have been home in time, anyway’.
You can read more about the creation process and inspiration for How Iraqi are you? in this REORIENT Magazine article.
Artist website: http://www.hayvkahraman.com/