Hayv Kahraman | Gut Feelings
The Mosaic Rooms presents Gut Feelings, a solo exhibition of paintings and mixed media works by Hayv Kahraman. In this new work, the artist delves into scientific research to situate the effects of trauma in the body and to investigate methodologies of physical healing and care. Developing from Kahraman’s ongoing exploration of embodied experiences of ‘Otherness’, the gut acts as a formal and material trope to investigate ideas of trauma and renewal.
In this new series of paintings and drawings twisted and knotted intestine-like cords seem to engulf the female figures. Organ-like labyrinths allude to a complex web of interconnectivity, reminiscent of neurological transmitters, simultaneously entrapping and emancipating the female figures entangled within them. These repeatedly explored imageries are painted on linen canvasses, paper and on handmade flax fabric, a new material for the artist. Kahraman began deconstructing the linen that she paints on, exploring how the flax fibres, before being woven and spun into linen, are harvested by bacteria in the soil. These works give an intimate insight into how Kahraman’s wide-ranging research informs her practice and her experimentation with processes and form.
‘I was cleaning out my mother’s belongings and found a book titled ‘Neurosculpting’, did you know that you have the ability to physiologically re-create new neuropathways in your brain, to re-sculpt, to unlearn and relearn? Now imagine what that means for a refugee.
I think about my own experiences as an Iraqi who fled the war to Sweden, and can’t help but notice an insidious regurgitation of pain that circulates in the migrant communities I belong to. The system (humanitarian agencies and social welfare governmental agencies) requires the display of trauma, the more you are known to have suffered, the more chance you have of the ‘reward’ of safety. Reliving this trauma can be gut-wrenching and has unrelenting somatic consequences. The confluence of pain and reward becomes a pernicious currency and “we” (refugees) inherit this to a point where it becomes our omnipresent identity.
I was captivated by the relatively new discovery that ‘colonist’ microbes, these foreign organisms that we’ve culturally learned to think of as dirty things to expel, are the very reason we feel – as humans. The gut produces serotonin ‘the happy hormone’ for example. The fact that alterity albeit in the microbial world is celebrated, makes someone like me, who existed at the periphery, very hopeful.
And I return to the microbial rich soil that my mother is buried in and think about neuroplasticity which is based on the idea of malleability, fluidity and change. Like the temporal metamorphoses that happens in the soil, can we learn from bacteria and transform to get Unstuck?’ – Hayv Kahraman
About Hayv Kahraman
Hayv Kahraman is an Iraqi artist based in Los Angeles whose figurative paintings examine the gendered and racialized body politics of migrant consciousness. Her work is a reflection on Otherness as a form of dehumanisation, focusing on the gap between the immigrant, non-white, genderly marked other and the way they are perceived by the white hetero-patriarchal normative same. Her work has been exhibited at ICA Boston, Boston (2020); Henry Art Gallery, Seattle (2020); De La Warr Pavilion, United Kingdom (2019); Nottingham Contemporary, United Kingdom (2019); Benton Museum of Art at Pomona College, Claremont (2018); Contemporary Art Museum (CAM) St. Louis, St. Louis (2017); Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha (2017); Rubell Museum, Miami (2016); Cantor Arts Center, Stanford (2013) and the Sharjah Biennial, United Arab Emirates (2009). Forthcoming shows include: The Touch of Otherness, The Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), Savannah (2022) and ICA San Francisco, San Francisco (2023).
Image: Entangled (detail), Hayv Kahraman, 2021. Oil on linen, 70 x 70 inches. Courtesy of the artist and Pilar Corrias, London. Photography: Fredrik Nilsen.