Tala Madani

Tala Madani, Sunny Side Up, 2010. Photograph by Thierry Bal

Tala Madani, Sunny Side Up, 2010. Photograph by Thierry Bal

Tala Madani’s (b.1972, Iran) provocative and exuberant paintings meld the political with the personal to focus on issues of sexual and cultural identity. Men, in particular, are her recurrent subjects. She depicts them with cartoon-like, almost surreal exaggeration, presenting a world as infantile as it is sadistic. Birthday parties, personal grooming sessions and other occasions for male bonding spiral down into bizarre scenarios in which men ritually abuse, humiliate and degrade one another.

Madani’s work related to the themes and concerns of Touched in its portrayal of the inadequacies of human, and stereotypically male, relations. She turned a mocking and yet fascinated and empathetic gaze on the cloistered world of male-only get-togethers. Here, ‘mankind’ was mercilessly (and quite literally) laid bare, in all its embarrassing and perhaps lovable ignobility.

For Touched, Madani produced a new animation, to appear – alongside a group of recent works – at random moments on ‘big screens’ normally used for broadcasting news and advertisements. This unexpected and sudden encounter with her art aimed to highlight the ambivalence of her imagery, at once familiar and disturbing, and destabilise the expectations of the accidental audience. The friction between form and meaning (a strategy perfectly mastered by the artist) not only questioned one’s own assumptions and prejudices, but also managed  to insinuate a more doubtful and less assertive take on our society.

Madani adopted a similar approach in the preparation of a large outdoor mural that raised a lively debate around the fine line that conventionally separated decorum from vulgarity regarding the representation of men and the instrumental use of their body in the public arena. But more importantly, the artist demonstrated that shame – as a tool of social and political control – can be equally used by and apply to either gender. Her work suggested that it is no longer a weapon for solely establishing and consolidating an indisputable macho/ patriarchal leadership.

Tala Madani at Liverpool Biennial 2010

Sunny Side Up, 2010
Wall mural
Exhibited in the public realm, various locations

Supported by

Mondrian Foundation