The works of Mirak Jamal span autobiographical anecdote and shared history, a politically charged past of escape and adjustment, remembering and forgetting. As a child, his family of artists fled post-Revolution Iran for the neighboring USSR, before moving to West Germany, the US, and ultimately to Canada. Today, he lives in Berlin, continuing his experience of itinerancy.
His work for the Istanbul Biennial explores the drawings he made as a child in the USSR and West Germany. Sometimes fantastical, always imaginative, these scenes of life and depictions of objects in a number of places chart the artist’s biography from a child’s perspective.
Jamal has constructed two works, a diptych and a triptych, based on selections of the drawings, re-interpreted, carved and transferred directly onto drywall – an unstable gypsum surface that suggests construction and incompletion. As they are re-examined, redrawn and reactivated, they are altered with the addition of scratches, colour or other modifications, reflecting the way in which, as the artist forces himself to re-experience the details of his life, many are imperfectly remembered. The source images, some of which are placed around the installation, recall domestic life in Germany, Others contain recognisable Soviet imagery.
The works point to the complicated realities of exile and itinerancy, where notions of ‘home’ are in constant flux. Memory is presented as a kaleidoscopic re-summoning of emotional attachment to places that are transitory and fragile. Jamal’s works also suggest that what is most formative can be foreign to us, and that what we can feel closest to, we can simultaneously feel alienated from. While he culls from the imagery of his childhood surroundings, these reiterations also carry contemporary nuances, from the vantage point of an artist working today.