Artist of the Month: Hayv Kahraman

Collective Cut
Oil on linen, 2008. Copy Rights: Hayv Kahraman.
Honor Killing
Sumi on paper, 2006. Copy Rights: Hayv Kahraman.

One glance at her art and you will be mesmerized, or in my case, captivated! Born in Baghdad, Iraq in 1981, Hayv Kahraman aesthetically tackles nostalgia and criticizes social boundaries, retroactive traditions and taboos in the formation of the female body and face, a form that is considered a taboo in the Middle East.

“I remember coming across an image of a lamb being flayed and really responding to that violent act of removing the skin. The specifics of that ritual (Eid al-Adha) were somewhat irrelevant. I wanted to concentrate on the aggressive act of removing a body part, what that meant and what that could yield.” Hayv Kahraman on her collection ‘Sacrifice’ in Broadly Vice 

Play Iron
Oil on panel, 2010. Copy Rights: Hayv Kahraman.
Threading my Mustache
Oil on panel, 2010. Copy Rights: Hayv Kahraman.
Person Nummer
Oil on linen, 2015. Copy Rights: Hayv Kahraman.
My name is Gun
Oil on linen, 2015. Copy Rights: Hayv Kahraman.
Disembodied 1.
Oil on panel, 2012. Copy Rights: Hayv Kahraman.

Hayv’s women appear euphoric and serene; their notorious gazes are filled with playful melancholy and resilience. Her work is a depiction of contradictions utilizing organic backgrounds or materials such as wood, or fair materials like linen. She paints on it a naked woman with thick eyebrows, big black hair, white skin and dark red lipstick – shamelessly engraving her curvy details. While gazing upon Hayv’s work you are bombarded with questions that leave you in a daze of inquiry and introspection. This is preicisly why her art is timeless and considered a masterpiece. No wonder she’s our first Artist of the Month!


Oil on linen, 2009. Copy Rights: Hayv Kahraman.
Ironing, Oil on linen, 2009. Copy Rights: Hayv Kahraman.
Details from Ironing, Oil on linen, 2009. Copy Rights: Hayv Kahraman.

“What I also find interesting is a sense of violence that the skin transmits because of this hidden narrative that precedes it. I feel that it relates to issues of colonialism and war and, to a certain degree, the psyche of a displaced person. As the skin is now marked and reduced to a number, it is static and confined to these very narrow parameters within a rectangular frame. It makes me wonder who this skin belonged to and why is it inanimate now?” Hayv Kahraman talking to Myrna Ayad

Hayv Kahraman now lives and works in Los Angeles. The body as object and subject have a central role in her painting practice as she compositely embodies the artist herself and a collective. Kahraman’s recent solo exhibitions include; “Acts of Reparation“, CAM St Louis; “Audible Inaudible“, Joslyn Museum of Art, Omaha; “Sound Wounds“, Asian Art Museum, San Francisco; “Gendering Memories of Iraq- a Collective Performance” which has been staged at CAM St Louis, Birmingham Museum of Art, Nelson-Atkins museum of art and Duke University; “Reweaving Migrant Inscriptions” Jack Shainman, New York; “Audible Inaudible“, The Third Line gallery, Dubai; “How Iraqi are you?“, Jack Shainman, New York. Recent group exhibitions include: “No Man’s Land: Women Artists from the Rubell Family Collection”, Miami; “UNREALISM: Presented by Larry Gagosian and Jeffrey Deitch”, Miami Design District; “June: A Painting Show”, Sadie Coles HQ, London. Hayv was shortlisted for the 2011 Jameel Prize at the Victoria and Albert Museum and has received the award “Excellence in Cultural Creativity”, Global Thinkers Forum.

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