Conversations with the environment: Fiber arts of Tara Goudarzi and Atefeh Khas

By: Roshanak Keyghobadi | August 2013

Tara Goudarzi and Atefeh Khas are not guerilla artists1or yarn bombers2 yet they make their artistic statements by temporarily transforming natural or architectural environments with their large scale knitted and crocheted flower and roof installations which initiate a fascinating dialogue between themselves, their artworks, their viewers and the environment.

A Flower for Nature3  and Another Roof4 are two ongoing collaborative woven projects by Tara and Atefeh.  Tara usually weaves flowers with a hollow circle in the middle that is surrounded by larger loops and Atefeh weaves geometrical flowers. Their materials are inexpensive or recycled yarns, sometime sheep and goat wool threads that have been spun by women of Lorestan region in Iran and the size of their flowers vary and can be up to five meters. Tara’s and Atefeh’s flowers and roofs have covered parts of natural environments such as seashores, forests, salt lakes, cliffs or on other occasions have acted as a roof in natural or architectural spaces. Their soft and flexible woven creations are in harmony with the coarse surface of rocks, rough barks of the trees and solid walls of buildings.

Atefeh views their artistic process as a transformative experience and explains: “we go through a transformation which unintentionally is transferred to our viewers. The questions that we have raised for ourselves become the questions of our viewers such as why weaving? Why femininity? Why nature? Why Low Art?”  Low Art is what they call their woven works that is in opposition to the “High Art” which is an elitist term based on cultural, gender and class biases. In fact Tara and Atefeh question the system of positioning the artworks produced by women on the lower scale of artistic value. Since in many cultures weaving is usually categorized as a form of handicraft that is specifically produced by women and lacking aesthetic value5 Tara and Atefeh deliberately have chosen knitting and crocheting to bring forth the marginality of these artistic practices and situate them among other important contemporary Iranian artworks. Atefeh explains: “when viewers find out that we call our works Low Art they ask should they truly be called Low Art? In fact we want to challenge our viewers.”

Tara and Atefeh both studied painting at the Shahed University in Tehran and also had the opportunity to study contemporary art under renowned Iranian environmental artist Ahmad Nadalian6 for three years. In addition to making environmental art they create photographs and performance art pieces. Atefeh describes the nature of their cooperation: “our collaboration is very pleasurable. We welcome each other’s suggestions and enjoy the whole process of creating each piece together. It is easy to decide about the locations and the details.” Tara adds: “we choose specific sites for our installation to create a feminine space in those environments and we offer a gift to nature in order to emphasize the location.”

Tara and Atefeh are among those environmental artists who honor the nature and their process of art making is a way of contemplating, recognizing and gifting. They get engaged with the natural environment by temporarily transforming the appearance of each space7 and by offering a flower or a roof start a conversation between themselves, the environment and their viewers. They not only facilitate a new way of looking at each space of their art installations but also influence the meaning and context of each location. For example when they spread a massive crocheted pink and purple flower over the Salt Lake in Orumieh, Iran (2009) the vast and silent site becomes intimate and vibrant. All eyes focus on the central circle of the installation and it is as if they had spread a vast carpet in nature’s living room inviting the viewers to join their exchange with nature. In another installation Tara and Atefeh created a crocheted roof suspended between the trees in Isfahan, Iran (2008). Each opening in the knitted roof deconstructs the vast blue sky above as well as the surrounding trees offering the viewer many framed images. It creates a shelter, a place to stop, a chance to look at every detail of branches, leafs, sky, white clouds and to discover myriad of forms, colors, compositions and textures.

The ritual of giving flowers to nature is the way that Tara and Atefeh pay their respect and reveal their love and appreciation for environment. Their flowers become mandalas which represent their spiritual and feminine connection to specific sites. Their roofs not only represent shelters and protective shields but also are tools for visual investigation and transformation of ordinary to extraordinary.

Tara and Atefeh have taken many trips together and they are often seen weaving bracelets which they offer to friends that they make along the way. Tara’s and Atefeh’s bracelets like their flowers are not only gifts but a visual symbol for beginning a connection and dialogue.

© Roshanak Keyghobadi, 2013.

Note:
  • All the artists’ quotations are from my online interview with Goudarzi and Khas in 2013.
Images:
  • (Top) Tara Goudarzi and Atefeh Khas, A Flower for Nature (2009), Salt Lake, Orumieh, Iran.  Photo by Shahrnaz Zarkesh.
  • (Bottom) Tara Goudarzi and Atefeh Khas, Another Roof (2008), Isfahan, Iran. Photo by Atefeh Khas.

Links:


1. Guerilla artists create and leave their artworks in public spaces with no authorization in
order to make political, social and cultural statements and display their views for the community.

2. Yarn bombers create knitted or crocheted yarn displays and installations in urban public spaces. Their works are not permanent and also called guerilla knitting or urban knitting with the purpose of changing the mundane city environments.

3. Goudarzi and Khas have installed  their projects titled A Flower for Nature in Iran, in different forms and locations such as in Masouleh (2011), in Hormuz Island (2011, 2010) and in Oroumieh’s Salt Lake (2009).

4. Goudarzi and Khas have installed their projects titled Another Roof in Iran, in different forms and locations such as in Masouleh (2011), Hormuz Island (2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011), in Shushtar (2010), in Polour (2009), in Esfahan (2008) and in Nowshahr (2008).

5. In Iranian culture weaving is usually associated with women and Iranian weaving is synonymous with carpet weaving. The oldest known surviving carpet in the world is Pazyryk carpet that was made in Iran in 5th century BC.

6. Ahmad Nadalian (b. 1963) is an environmental artist, art critic, and university professor.  He studied painting at Tehran University, Iran and was awarded a Ph.D. degree from University of Central England in 1995. His works vary from carvings and installations to video art and performances. You can see his art on: http://www.riverart.net, http://www.nadalian.com and http://www.wwwebart.com.

7. Goudarzi and Khas never leave any materials behind and are respectful of each site.