Helena Tahir 's solo exhibition at Ravnikar Gallery in Ljubljana.

Helena Tahir : The Last Sector
March 20 — May 11, 2024
Ravnikar,Gallery,  Ljubljana

_____________________________________ STATEMENT

The exhibition "The Last Sector" by Helena Tahir poses a profound and critical question that resonates within the vast realm of art: How does an artist's deeply personal experience, seamlessly incorporated into their artwork, transcend the boundaries of subjectivity to reach a state of a more objective relevance and relatability for a broader audience? Or, one might rephrase this question to inquire why we, as viewers, find ourselves inherently drawn to artworks that delve into the intimate aspects of artists' lives and see them as powerful.

The exhibition unfolds as a moving exploration of Helena's Iraqi heritage, deeply rooted in the stormy history of her father's life. Drawing directly from her family's past, it showcases various artistic expressions intricately entangled with Helena's transformative journey to Iraq in January 2023. Initiated by a heartfelt summons from her father's family, communicated through a poignant video message after the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime in 2003, Helena embarks on a quest to connect with her family roots and unravel the enigmatic elements of her father's hidden past. Whether presenting the Iraqi family tapes, subtly modified found paperwork from her journey, carbon tracing drawing transfers on tiles, or employing her well-known drawing method, Tahir masterfully weaves intimate narratives and histories that may initially feel distant to most. However, transcending the confines of the personal narrative publicly, she illuminates the capacities of art's transformative power. In doing so, Helena emphasizes the profound ability of artistic expression to initiate changes, underlining its role as a catalyst of feelings and triggering shifts in the audience's consciousness through intimately originated works, resembling a confession. 

Starting from the exhibition's title, we are introduced to the concepts of confession and intimacy. Such an enigmatic title leaves us with perplexing associations, leading us to think that Helena allows us to enter a hidden realm. Essentially, "The Last Sector," as named by the locals, refers to the 38th sector of Sadr City district in Baghdad, where Helena's father's family resides. However, beyond this original meaning, the name through this exhibition also carries a symbolic meaning, portraying the area as a storehouse of personal truths, a concealed realm waiting to be discovered and unveiled, or something profoundly hidden that pains to be verbalized. This idea aligns with Michel Foucault's exploration of truth residing within ourselves, seeking expression and liberation through confession. The failure of truth to surface is attributed to a constraining force, a power that suppresses it, and its articulation becomes possible only through a form of liberation consisting of the process of confession. Therefore, it is crucial to recognize that truth shares a fundamental connection with freedom. In this context, the story Helena tells us is connected with the search for freedom. For this search, Helena travels through her father's homeland, Iraq, entering the Last Sector and meeting her Iraqi family, which was kept in silence under personal and political circumstances for many, many years. Then, her decision to transform this experience into works of art and then into an exhibition became, on one side, an apparent liberation by itself, but on the other, the place where the narrative becomes objective and relevant to us all since the essence of the matter lies in the direct materiality of the story. Through the act of the artist's confession, which simultaneously serves as a subtle and ambivalent state of vulnerability and resistance, we also become both fragile and rebellious, encouraging us that liberating the truth is equal to fighting for freedom, a risk worth taking. 

This concept is revealed through Helena Tahir's distinctive working process, especially in her drawings. Once she has stated that drawing is a process of becoming one with the work. By this, Helena is observing the creation as a therapeutic process, where through the short and fast movements of the colored pencils and the sound they produce, the work absorbs the whole presence of the artist, their thoughts, and feelings. Through the exhibited works, she drives us around that process by carefully dissecting her creative approach. She juxtaposes family archival tapes, photographs, and images of personal meaning with the drawings made through a meditative and detailed process that resembles the rhythmic undulations of Persian carpets, which mirrors Helena's personalization of her creations through lived experiences and truths. It becomes evident that Helena operates within fragmentary logic, skillfully amalgamating diverse visual information into a cohesive whole with the help of tracing, frottaging, and compiling techniques. This amalgamation, akin to constructing an image from many existing ones, threads narratives drawn from multiple, coexisting stories. Here, the observer is invited to delve into the elaborateness of Helena's creative process. The result is an emotional walk through the layers of Helena's artistry and state of the soul, where each detail contributes to the broader narrative of the interconnected stories, cultivating a deep and vibrant visual experience.


_____________________________________ ABOUT THE ARTIST

Helena Tahir primarily works in the fields of printmaking and drawing. She graduated with honors from the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Ljubljana, earning a Bachelor's degree in printmaking and a Master's degree in painting. During her studies, she attended the Faculty of Fine Arts in Porto and the Hochschule für Grafik und Buchkunst in Leipzig. She has showcased her work in several solo exhibitions, including the Lamut Salon in Kostanjevica na Krki (2018), the International Graphic Centre in Ljubljana (2020), the Ravne Gallery of KGLU (2021), RAVNIKAR (2022), and numerous group presentations in Slovenia and abroad. These include art fairs such as Vienna Contemporary and Art Rotterdam, as well as exhibitions like Contemporary=Fresh—a traveling exhibition of contemporary Slovenian graphic art that debuted in China, then traveled through the Balkans. She also participated in the International Exhibition of Graphic Art and Artists' Books in Rijeka, where she was honored with the Young Artist Award. In 2023, she became the new artist-in-residence for two years in Švicerija (MGLC). She further enriches her active artistic practice by teaching, including at the Department of Graphic Arts at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Ljubljana, SI. Her works are housed in various private & public collections. She lives and works in Ljubljana.

_____________________________________ ABOUT US

RAVNIKAR is a contemporary art gallery that represents a diverse group of internationally renowned artists while striving to promote the emerging generation of young creators. It aims to showcase a wide range of imaginative art practices by creating a platform for local and international artists, collectives, curators, and others working in the field of contemporary arts. Recognizing the increasingly important role that contemporary visual art plays in socio-political and cultural discourse, we seek dialogue between artists, the community of experts, collectors, and the general public through a range of multidisciplinary projects and initiatives.

Since its inception, the gallery's fundamental vision has been to present intergenerational local art production on one hand and to build lasting international partnerships to exchange knowledge and experience with foreign audiences on the other. We try to achieve this primarily through our continuous presence at leading international art fairs and various exhibition exchanges.

RAVNIKAR is a proud co-founder of ETC. magazine, an annual publication that showcases exceptional artistic talent from the Baltics to the Balkans. The main purpose of the magazine is to bring together artists, curators, writers, and publishers working in the field of contemporary art. Focusing on a different theme in each publication, the magazine aims to be a dialogue platform for a variety of voices and opinions from across Europe, contributing to a broader understanding of a particular theme and recontextualizing a border-defined narrative.

The gallery is also the initiator of the Ljubljana Art Weekend, an international platform developed in cooperation with the Cukrarna gallery and the City of Ljubljana. The initiative is part of the network weekend.org and is similar in format, organization, and structure to its parallels elsewhere. A similar operating principle is reflected in our desire to give all organizations active in the field of contemporary art in Ljubljana and those belonging to our partner network the opportunity to present and promote their programs and integrate them into a single, centralized, and accessible platform.

RAVNIKAR is a member of the New Art Dealers Alliance (NADA), a non-profit arts organization dedicated to cultivating, supporting, and promoting new voices in contemporary art, and a member of the Gallery Climate Coalition GCC, an international membership organization that establishes guidelines for environmental sustainability in the arts sector.

In addition to our ongoing initiatives, we are establishing what is to become a long-term collaboration between the ULAY Foundation and RAVNIKAR. This collaboration aligns with one of the two pillars of the ULAY Foundation, which, while preserving and promoting the work of Ulay (1943-2020), is also dedicated to supporting emerging artists. We are opening up Ulay's archive and oeuvre to young artists working on related themes or using similar methods and techniques as the late artist. As part of this pursuit, in 2024, the Foundation will collaborate with the two artists RAVNIKAR represents, Tadej Vaukman and Gasper Kunsic, as well as Alban Muja (Charim Galerie, Vienna, AT), and Sophie Thun (Sophie Tappeiner, Vienna, AT).


Photo: Mario Zupanov