On a 2017 trip to the Iranian island of Hormoz, Laila collected soil from which she derived ochre, red and purple oxides and chalk pigments. From her garden in London twenty-year-old brick is crushed to form a deep red powder. Together with lapis, malachite, vermillion and cinnabar these are some of the hues that inform her work. This traditional preparation of colours connects the artist to her surroundings as well as to the deep histories embedded within the mineral and organic materials she employs.
For her first ever solo exhibition, London-born Iranian artist Laila Tara H presents a group of new paintings made from naturally derived pigments and watercolour on salvaged Indian hemp paper. In a conscious attempt to separate geopolitics from the earth she turns to ancient and folk practices that allow non- human matter to speak, demonstrating that these are extraordinary actors in and of themselves.
Running from 8 - 29 April am I? is a meditation on subjectivity seen in and through painting. Rooted in the methodology of Persian miniatures, Laila forgoes the genre’s traditional compositional techniques, opting instead to use emptiness as a way to interrogate selfhood. In Self Portrait in Miniature, for example, the artist frames herself doubly within the negative space of a cutout void and blank paper. She plays with dimensionality as a means to expand the painting plane, or to further the already really plastic space of Persian miniatures. If the self is constituted by its surroundings and these surroundings are ever-changing, Laila Tara H asks, then am I?