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Published on July 13, 2021

Samira Abbassy

Bound By Her Fate, 2014, oil on gesso panel, 24 x18 inch, image courtesy of the artist

Ghosts of her Migration, 2017, oil on gesso panel, 24 x 18 inch, image courtesy of the artist

“I was forced to ask myself who I am and where I am from throughout my life as an immigrant... I questioned many aspects of my dueling cultures as I tried to integrate, belong, and bridge gaps. So, I became a “fictional historian,” reinterpreting stories about a homeland that I barely knew. I needed a mirror to see myself; and not finding that mirror, I created my own through art. The canvas became for me a mirror of inclusion, a place to contextualize myself and establish my identity.

Yet, in attempting to explain my relationship to my Arab-Iranian culture, I found I knew little of what this culture really was. This made me uneasy on both sides of the cultural divide. My work became a kind of ’fictional history’ stemming from a non-understanding of something I was supposed to understand from the outset...

For example, Ghosts of her Migration poses questions like: ...Who would I have been if I had never emigrated, and are there any parts of myself that are still untouched by the two migrations of my life?

...All along I intended to broaden the ‘Western Canon’ to find a place within it for myself and my heritage. This led me to examine the historiographies of western art history and to question its geo- political origins. ...After receiving BFA from Canterbury College of Art, UK I focused on art outside the Western Cannon, starting with Indian and Persian miniatures. I was then led to Hindu iconography and viewed it in parallel to that of Christian and Muslim to find common motifs. I also took Jung’s theory of ‘the collective unconscious’ as a premise to uncover common and divergent ideas instilled in the human psyche.

Your description: “peacefully iconic and painfully urgent – alien and familiar, timeless and timely” is possibly the best understanding of what I try to do when making a piece of work, whether it’s painting or sculpture....

Etty Yaniv, Samira Abbassy: Hybrid Iconography, Art SPIEL, 01/12, 2021