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Traces, Faces, Places
Malileh Afnan's work appears 'as a relic of an older civilization or an archaeological excavation into the collective psyche. The delicacy of Persian miniatures and manuscripts, which she remembers from childhood, is mirrored in her love for intimate scale and the refined beauty of muted colour'. Calligraphy plays an important role: images appear that suggest the written word. Works on paper and tablets of painted plaster are reminiscent of ancient, almost obliterated texts, and like palimpsests, retain only some vestige of literal meaning and an impression of human contact. Afnan has absorbed both Middle Eastern and Western influences. She has looked towards such artists as Pollock, Rothko, Dubuffet and Klee, and shares an affinity with the American artist Mark Tobey, who helped arrange the first European exhibition of her work in 1971.
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These images, made by hand, whisper. Whisper intimately. John Berger from the foreword Afnan's work reflects on what it means to survive and create within a system that has until now put artists from the Middle East at the periphery of the international art scene, with its emphasis on marketing rather than relevance to contemporary culture. She distances herself from the superficial with her mesmerising layers and mappings of patterns, repeated glyphs and ghostly outlines, which induce an almost trance-like state in the viewer. We are left with a sense of what it means to live in other times, in different places. In essence, Afnan's work is about memory, and her images of eroding traces, faces and places linger long in the memory. Rose Issa from her Preface to this volume. Maliheh Afnan has faith in time - her time. She is one of those contemplative artists who are totally aware of that 'right moment', which she calls 'the moment of grace'. Lutz Becker from his intoduction to this volume.