Mahshad Afshar is a self-taught artist and drawing and photography has always been her passion and main medium for expression. As a child Afshar was captivated by Persian classic miniatures in the style of Master Mahmoud Farshchian, one of the most prominent contemporary Iranian artists. Later, she studied and copied many of Farschian’s works until she mastered the craft. But Farshchian’s works taught her more than merely craft; Afshar’s deep contemplation of Farshchian, especially ‘The Evening of Ashura’, which has a deep religious theme advertising Islamic values, forced Afshar to critically rethink the deeper purpose and mission of art. During her time in exile, she spent many hours in galleries and museums exploring Western art. During this time, Afshar created several collections but decided not to exhibit them but rather to keep them as her personal passion.
The female body and societal constructs of femininity has always been at the apex of the patriarchal structures, which continues to oppress women of all classes and races. Cursed Seal is a series of photographs combined digitally with religious or classical manuscripts, addressing the authoritative powers that control or regulate the female body. Some of the texts are from the Surah Al-Nesa of the Qur'an, which defines the social and legal rights of women in Islamic countries. Other texts are from an ancient book called Alfieh and Shalfiya, an illustrated book known as the Persian Kama Sutra depicting sexual relations and sexual positions between man and woman. These texts make up a part of the collection called, ironically, the “Pleasure of Women”. Like so many other books about women, this book is written by men and for the purpose of giving pleasure to men; the same rule applies to religious books.
For Afshar, there is no art without a mission: art is a transcendental tool with the power to influence and provoke, to act as a personal catharsis and eventually to lead us to a spiritual awakening and a new consciousness.
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