In The Press

Bita Ghezelayagh & Resistance of Pen and Paper | Al-Monitor

Artist Bita Ghezelayagh speaks out in an interview with Al-Monitor about her featured works in the exhibition Resistance of Pen and Paper and how she reflects on Iran's repressive regime through her work.



“Iranian artist Bita Ghezelayagh is making a name through her exhilarating fusion of ancient Iranian crafts with universal themes of rebellion, hope and alienation that are permanently displayed in the British Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Jameel Foundation in Saudi Arabia and other signature venues worldwide.  
Her most recent work, which fronted “The Resistance of Pen and Paper” — an all-star exhibition at the blue-chip Richard Saltoun Gallery in Mayfair, London — targets censorship in her home country.
"You always feel that what you do will cause trouble. As an Iranian you always worry,” said Ghezelayagh during a recent interview over tea and Persian delicacies in her flat in London. Born to an architect father and a lawyer mother in Florence, she returned to Iran at age 5 to witness the 1979 Islamic Revolution that brought the clerical regime to power. An angry mob descended on her family residence in northern Tehran — home to the moneyed, the powerful and old families such as hers. Her father’s reputation for probity as project manager of Ekbatan, the biggest residential complex in the capital, spared them the fate of many of their neighbors. But fear and instability remained a constant as the Iran-Iraq War erupted. “We had to hide in basements. Food was restricted. The country was very black,” she recalled.
Ghezelayagh seems almost disbelieving of her own success as she speaks of her “gratitude” to Saltoun, even as big-name private collectors such as Sara Ali Reza of Saudi Arabia and Mohammed Afkhami snap up her works. Perhaps it is rooted in her own government’s refusal to acknowledge her talent and display her work in national museums. There is an ever-present tinge of sorrow in Gezelayagh’s gray-flecked green eyes, which deepens when the subject is raised.
“I always feel so lonely,” she acknowledged. “Because of the constant upheaval in my country, the past has been taken away from me. But I refuse to be a victim."

The Resistance of Pen and Paper was on view from 26 September - 4 November 2023. 

To read the full piece, please visit the Al-Monitor website.
November 7, 2023