Iranian artist Farhad Ahrarnia at the Rose Issa Projects

Caught mid-leap by a camera, the dancer has the grace and heroism of a Michelangelo. But the image itself is grainy, like an old film. Criss-crossing it all are bright, intricate threads. And the dancer is Afshin Mofid, an Iranian who became a star of the New York City Ballet at a time when dancing was all but extinguished in his home country.

Farhad Ahrarnia, an Iranian artist who divides his time between his hometown Shiraz, Iran and Sheffield, is known for his modernist inspired embroidery. In this latest exhibition , “Canary in a Coalmine” at Rose Issa Projects, his stitches suggest both unease and joy.

As well as dancers, Ahrarnia addresses other neglected parts of Iranian culture, such as the influence of American movies. Black and white stills of Hollywood idols are blown up and then sketched over in vivid thread.

The needles are set aside however, for a series of silver-plated tools engraved with famous symbols from pre-Islamic Iran. Most poignant are the depictions of the Persepolis. Archaeological treasures are scattered haphazardly on a dustpan, as if already slipping towards the bin.

Although much of the exhibition makes reference to the past, in Ahrarnia’s recent series “Something in the Air” studio images make way for the artist’s own lens and Iran suddenly appears in technicolour.

Unfortunately just one work from this series is on show – perhaps due to the small exhibition space – and the show as a whole makes for quick viewing. Still, it can only be a mark of the artist’s success that the viewer is left wanting more.

“Canary in a Coalmine” runs until 25 February 2012, Rose Issa Projects, 269 Kensington High Street, Tuesday to Saturday 1-5pm or by appointment. Admission free.

Julia Rampen

See also:

“I want fresh voices, critical voices”: curator Rose Issa on promoting Middle Eastern art

Young Saudi artists at the British Museum

Axis of Light: Eight artists from the Middle East


About Julia Rampen

London-based journalist. Find me on Twitter @JuliaRampen


  1. Pingback: “I want fresh voices, critical voices”: Curator Rose Issa talks to Middle East LDN about promoting Arab and Iranian art « Middle East LDN

  2. Pingback: Young Saudi Artists at the British Museum « Middle East LDN

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