Cover image of the review
Hoda Afshar, Remain, 2018 (video still), from the series 'Remain' 2018, two-channel digital video, colour, sound, duration 23:33 min, aspect ratio 16:9, installation dimensions variable, Art Gallery of New South Wales, purchased with funds provided by the Contemporary Collection Benefactors 2020 © Hoda Afshar, image © Art Gallery of New South Wales

Hoda Afshar: A Curve is a Broken Line

7 Oct 2023
Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW) 2 Sep - 21 Jan 2024

It is a relief to find that Hoda Afshar’s first major Australian survey exhibition, Hoda Afshar: A Curve is a Broken Line (2023), is housed in the contemporary galleries in the Art Gallery of New South Wales’s South Building, and not Sydney Modern. While entangled and bound up with associations of the “white cube,” here, the works do not face competition with their architectural surroundings. Curated by Senior Curator of Contemporary Australian Art, Isobel Parker Philip, the entrance to the exhibition is a black-and-white wall-to-ceiling print of Afshar’s work from the series In turn (2023), in which three women are captured in a moment of intimacy—braiding hair—demanding that this show is not easily missed.

To simply say that the Iranian-born, Naarm-based artist’s artworks are impactful is a gross understatement. Instead, it would be more appropriate to say that they pull you in, hold your gaze, and force acknowledgement of egregious acts that are and have been quarantined by governmental forces. There is a photojournalistic approach to Afshar’s photographs—they gracefully straddle documentary photography and artistic expression. Such strong works require a gentle, yet robust curation, which is certainly evident here in its clear thematic address of difficult narratives. The considered exhibition has alluring, beautiful aesthetics informed by soft lighting and distinct wall hues that induce a deep sense of reflection and contemplation. The exhibition title, A Curve is a Broken Line, is derived from a poem by Iranian-American writer Kaveh Akbar, which, as the exhibition suggests, speaks to “an admission of vulnerability but also strength.”

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