The intricate and intriguing work of Brussels-based artist Sanam Khatibi

To mark the opening of her solo show at NICC on 7th September, we talk interest, impulses and imbalances with Iranian-born, Brussels-based artist Sanam Khatibi, whose artistic practice encompasses a broad range of techniques – from painting and sculpture to embroidery and tapestry – to reveal intricate and intriguing landscapes.

At its core, what is your work about?

I deal with animality, and our primal impulses. What really interests me is our relationship to power structures, and the duality of power and failure. I am interested in the male / female interaction, and I question the balance of power between the sexes.

What is its starting point and statement?

I always start with a rough drawing of a landscape, and then I start thinking about my subject matter. This can change once I start painting. I never really know what is going to happen. At a certain stage things just come together.

With tenderness and longing Oil and pencil on canvas 160 x 200 cm, 2016

With tenderness and longing
Oil and pencil on canvas
160 x 200 cm, 2016
photo(c)Hugard&Vanoverschelde

Can you talk to us about your approach in general?

It’s too instinctive to really talk about it. My works encompass paintings, sculptures, embroideries and tapestries. I love being able to bring all these different elements from my universe together.

I never really know what is going to happen. At a certain stage things just come together.

What characterises your work?

My current paintings revolve around a group of female figures, who are often getting themselves into mischief. They are the predators, the dominant figures, who are quite impulsive and playful. They are ambiguous with their relationship to power, violence, sensuality and each other. Wildlife and animals are also an integral part of my practice, and the women are often depicted within the same plane as the flora and fauna.

Who or what would you say was instrumental in shaping your artistic practice?

It was always there; I just didn’t know what form it would take.

Contemporary art is a little like a third eye, it opens your perspectives and perceptions and makes one think out of the box.

What are the challenges you face as an artist working in Belgium today?

I would say the shortage of small art centers to show emerging artists and the lack of international visibility.

How do you see yourself fit into the country’s contemporary art scene?

You will have to ask my colleagues that question. 

Talk to us about the people around you, your local scene. To what extent does it inspire and influence you?

I am very lucky to have some wonderful friends. They are mostly artists or dealers, who have been a great support throughout the years. Their feedback and friendship has been indispensable.

What does success look like to you?

A private island and a big yacht with naked chicks and lots of guns.

To you, what role should contemporary art occupy in the community?

It should definitely have a more significant role. Contemporary art is a little like a third eye, it opens your perspectives and perceptions and makes one think out of the box.

Which Belgian artists do you follow, look at for inspiration? Either from the past or the present.

There are many wonderful Belgian Artists. If I had to choose I would go for James Ensor, René Magritte, Paul Delvaux and Francis Alÿs.

On a more personal note, how does your everyday inform your work?

I think once you are passionate about your work, everything you do and see and like forms a part of your practice. For me the boundary between my daily life and my work is blurred.

And what do your parents, your family, think of what you do?

They are very supportive, but they are also aware of the fact that it is a very challenging life.

sanamkhatibi.com
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