Anna McNay

Review of Maryam Najd: Accuracy & Balance – West at Galerie van de Weghe, Antwerp


Maryam Najd: Accuracy & Balance
– West

Galerie van de Weghe, Antwerp

5 September
– 4 October 2014

Maryam Najd was born in Iran in
1965 and grew up there. She studied art at the University of Tehran but, after
the revolution in 1979, life on many levels had become restricted. It was no
longer permitted to see naked bodies and so life drawing was never part of her
syllabus – at least, the models were always fully clothed. In 1992, she moved
to Antwerp having been accepted to study at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts. Apart
from a few years spent in Berlin and New York, she has been there ever since.

“For me, nudity was something that
I had never seen before in Iran. I was touched by it from my very first day in
Belgium. It has had an impact on me. The first month at the academy, we had to
draw and paint all these models and I was shy even to look at them. I was shocked
to see how the nude was represented in society.”

Since then, Najd has found herself
repeatedly wondering, in this culture where nudity and naked bodies are so
prevalent and where the female form is plastered all over magazines, billboards
and television, whether this is part of women’s emancipation, or whether it is,
on the contrary, a new form of suppression and shackles – a pressure to look
and present oneself in a certain way; a pressure to perform myriad roles, as
wife, mother, businesswoman, gym bunny, sex bomb; a pressure to both conform to
and stand up against being the object of male desire. Maybe freedom is
something beyond all of this. Moreover, Najd wonders where the line is drawn
between pop stars, models and performers, who wear tight bodices or scanty
outfits and flaunt their bodies provocatively (think Madonna, Rihanna and Beyoncé,
to name but a few), and porn stars, strip-club workers, or prostitutes. “Someone
like Rihanna, she goes almost naked on to the stage, and we call them ‘artists’,
not ‘prostitutes’,” Najd says incredulously. “Do you really need to go that far?”
Following this line of curious intrigue, she has been working on a series, or
project, the first part of which is currently on show at Galerie van de Weghe,
called Accuracy & Balance – with this first instalment carrying the
subtitle “West”.

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