Interview with Elham Hazfi (EH), Irit Epstein (IE) and Lina Faroussi (LF) by Phil Anderson (PA)
The three artists from three countries (Iran, Israel and Syria) now living in Toronto, explore in their work the humanitarian crisis in our contemporary world, a result of man-made destruction.
PA: How did the three of you meet?
LF: I initiated the idea of a group of artists that would have an annual exhibition. I knew Elham and Irit separately, and introduced them to each other.
EH: Last March, when I had a catch-up coffee with Lina, she initiated the idea of creating an art critique session with other artists (mostly in painting). The purpose was to get other professional ideas about our works, exchange news about the art world, and eventually have group exhibitions together.
IE: Once the three of us met, we found that we had a lot in common as artists and women, as well as being immigrants who came to Canada from the Middle East.
PA: Did you find you had common themes in your art works?
IE: The most recent series that Lina and I were working on both were dealing with man-made disasters. Lina was portraying the Syrian War, and I was working on portraying the experiences of refugees, migration and loss of home and homeland. Lina thought of doing a joint exhibition, and Elham joined in with a related theme, centered around what is left behind: hopes, expectations and the feelings that are evoked when one migrates.
LF: In the beginning, Irit and I were working on our separate series, mine titled ‘The Obvious and the Obscure’, and hers ‘The Map and the Territory’. I thought the two series coincidentally complemented each other. They had a similar vision and theme that I thought would fit well in a group exhibition. Elham joined in, beginning with her work ‘Bad Dude Land’, followed by other paintings and an installation.
EH: We shared a similar vision. We are all interested in painting figures and human emotions in different circumstances. It was fascinating to see how Lina and Irit were diving into the deepest layers of their life experiences. My work is usually about people’s emotions and interactions, so I guess my works covered the individual aspect of the subject.
PA: Why do you think it was necessary to show your work together?
IE: Our work shows three points of view that portray the results of what is and has been happening in the world. They cover different topics and aspects of immigration, but together they create a theme that is much broader and more meaningful, and can promote insight and conversation.
PA: What do you hope people take from this exhibition?
EH: I would like people to see themselves in my paintings. Alienation and not fitting in is not only for immigrants, as it could be experienced by anyone with any background. This exhibition may lead to a conversation about the subject, which is valuable in itself.
IE: I am hoping that this exhibition will offer another way to look at what is happening in the world today. Art can provide an aesthetic dimension to sensitive subjects, and enable an ongoing observation that can promote dialogue, raise awareness and inspire change.
LF: I hope people can see beyond politics, can open dialogues with us and with each other, and think in open minded ways, out of the boxes of countries or politics. Then I hope some solution might follow. As Bertrand Russell wrote, “war is not about who is right but who is left.”
PA: What is the strongest message you want to covey?
IE: Art can build bridges.
LF: Art has no identity
EH: Conveying feelings is what an artist does, not sending a message.
PA: Do you see yourself doing any future exhibition together?
IE: Since we have a lot in common, there is a lot of potential to continue to collaborate.
*Exhibition information: May 25 – June 4, 2017, Gallery 1313, 1313 Queen Street West, Toronto. Gallery hours: Wed – Sun, 1 – 6 pm.