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Shulamit Nazarian
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Aryana Minai at Shulamit Nazarian


For her first solo show at Shulamit Nazarian, Aryana Minai presents a new body of paper pulp work that straddles the line between painting and sculpture. Including a range of sizes, several of the pieces in Soft Waters Heard Here present a color palette that is arguably more vivid than we have previously seen from the artist. Her work, which appears at once fragile and thin, yet strong and bulky, is meant to evoke vernacular architectural forms and decorative patterns, particularly those found in Iran. 

Minai is engaged with her culture’s history of craft and her own diasporic identity, evoking the Lebanese painter and poet Etel Adnan’s (1925-2021) writings on exile, belonging, and absence. When viewing the work, the heavily textured, and at times three-dimensional paper-pulp surfaces, prompt us to get closer, uncovering a multitude of patterns and layers. As the title of the exhibition suggests, Minai intends for viewers to not only look closely, but also listen closely, in hopes of hearing distant waters and activating the storytelling capacity of the work.

Perhaps most intriguing is the process which the artist undertakes to develop such intricate paper-based sculptures — a process that is intimately linked to loss and preservation. Minai uses both bricks and stones salvaged from demolished buildings and gifted woodblocks for textile patterns and embosses them into dyed paper pulp. Here, Minai is not only investigating the sensory dimensions of memory, but also reflecting on physical spaces that no longer exist as a metaphor for the diasporic condition.

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